A swastika, black and bold, was etched into the skin of my lover.
“What the hell is that?” I glared into his eyes. I searched for the answer so it wouldn’t be said out loud.
“You know what it is.”
by Bernise Carolino
Fast-forward to where this story began and the teacher is looming behind the little girl now as she struggles to answer her math quiz. The proximity apparently of a womanly body against a childlike one signals malicious intentions. Once again the teacher is making it clear that she’s choosing the little girl. The teacher leans down close and whispers into the little girl’s ear all the correct answers. Too close, the flick of a tongue. Get away, little girl, lean forward, strain your body against your desk, feeling your stomach sear as it’s cut in half against wood table knife anything just to get away get away get away from the whisper close the whisper wet—
by Scott Jessop
“Please, I haven’t been able to work since…”
“Cry me a river. Look, guy, I got a job. Yeah, I got a job and it’s to collect delinquent debts. So pay up or do you know what I’m going to do, Mister…” He checked his file again… “Jackson? I’m going to send a couple of my boys to your house on 12th Street and they’re going to kill your dog and then go to work on you.”
That was when the sobbing began. The louse at the end of his rope.
by K. Michael McIntosh
Perversely, the very unavailability of it arouses her. She finds naughty thoughts intruding throughout the day: as she spreads peanut butter in slow, deliberate swirls, as she smoothes the cool, peach-colored sheets over their king-size bed, in the sandbox, letting the late-afternoon sand spill through her fingers, onto her bare legs. It gets out of hand; anything vaguely cylindrical brings on a flush. A trip to the supermarket becomes an erotic adventure—cans, cartons, certain kinds of pasta—the produce section (Davy, put the zucchini down) leaves her positively sticky.
by Richard Fein
If nothing is sacred,
then doing absolutely nothing is the proper prayer for the iconoclast.
To just sit quietly and stare vacantly,
to hear and see everything but to listen and observe nothing:
not to talk, not to read, not to learn,
not to chant Om, for to Om is to meditate
and to meditate is to think about not thinking,
not to add two plus two or to try spelling Poughkeepsie,
and to be oblivious to the itch in your nose and certainly not to pick it
to do all this not-to-do is to do absolutely nothing.
by Trina Gaynon
The appetite of dragonflies, insatiable hunger for sex and meat. Appetites as frenzied as
Cockroach whiskers, he says,
Myriad screaming parakeets.
This raw hunger,
These raw hungers that stain the world in blood. Both in our entrance and our leaving.
Vertebrates of dead beasts.
by R. Hoyte Raney
My first couple of computer dates had been fairly uneventful. Nice women, close to my age, looking for something I could never provide. I should write a column for the paper. Little nuggets of self-help wisdom:
Bad news, ladies, you’re not going to find Mr. Perfect if you’re forty-five years old and not a slice of heaven. You’re going to find me: slightly soft, hairy in all the wrong places and stiff in social settings. Now don’t get me wrong, I can be romantic as hell and devoted to every mundane aspect of your ordinary life, but do you really think you’re going to find a younger, richer, more successful version of me who is ready to donate the remaining years of his life to making your every waking moment a cherished memory?
Of course you do.
by Hassan Riaz
I almost died, or was killed, really, three times, by three different girls, all of whom I loved, and probably still do, and even though they tried to off me, I wish them the best, because I’m not one to hold grudges. I’m not angry at them, and in fact, in some way, I can sympathize with their plights and emotional states, because at the end of the day, they only wanted to make sure that I wasn’t nibbling caviar off of anyone’s nipples but theirs.
by Louis Gallo
This will prove how driven and I guess desperate
I am because it’s about a really insane woman
and I mean clinically who moves in next door
when I’m about sixteen and the entire family,
five of them, are whackos who sit in their back yard
in tattered lawn chairs hooting and screaming
and they set their garbage on fire and trot around
kicking bricks for fun and you can’t talk to them
because they never answer
by Tiffany Brown
Once, between procedures, Pauline had stepped outside of the circle of light and simply dissolved. She’d felt it, felt her molecules begin to dissipate until she imagined herself the foam on top of a freshly-poured glass of root beer. When she floated back into the light, she reassembled and vowed never to leave it again. There was no point. There was nothing beyond the ring of light but the promise of an unsettling shift in being.
by Jessica Lakritz
Before I can think about it, or
yes this is the way a body thinks
after a few beers, you have me pressed
against the sink, you have my jeans at my ankles, lost
and light in this suddenly
open field, its cool night falling to my
bare shoulders, and some distant birds
with beautiful voices, they’re singing
through the walls of buzzing electronica
stripping the filth from the mirror,
all anatomy in permanent marker
labeled with fat black arrows:
cunt, balls, and fuck me
if you’re in the (area code) 509
by Raul Palma
Though Hailey planned on encapsulating the placenta, the girls at the tennis club have dared her to do otherwise. Smoke it; make it into a pizza, a Bloody Mary, a sweet hash. Apparently, the internet is teeming with placenta recipes, and there’s a chef, you know? Something Wen Lee. He specializes in this kind of thing, comes to your house and everything. Delicioso! Did you read the op-ed about him in Parents?
by John McCaffrey
He was not busy. And the idea of having coffee with Melony, any beautiful woman, thrilled him. Not because of sexual interest, but more for the attention it brought him, the refracted glory, the envy he perceived in the eyes of other men when he used to stroll into a restaurant or club with a comely companion, or at least the envy he craved – or once craved, before prison humbled him, made him see himself as he really was, his two years incarcerated serving as a giant mirror pressed to his face, forcing him to examine up close his imperfections, but instead of blackheads and scars, wrinkle lines and ingrown hairs, he saw fear and weakness, indecision and insecurity, a man without purpose or identity, a man stripped of his mask, a façade erected out of bluster and bravado, ruthless largesse, abject greed…and stolen credit cards.
by Brett Petersen
Walking up the stairs, I trip on my own brain stem.
Passionate cries from the closet cradle my broken pieces.
I’ve eaten and gorged and scarfed to satiation
But no amount of satisfaction could have saved me
From sweating bullets at noontime
Under heat lamps of radioactive frustration.
Castrated on the table at birth I was
But my foreskin remained intact.
I knew someday the tears would go away
But after the fact I’d return.
Back for more
A third plate of feast
A buffet of indulgence in the hypothalamus of the beast.
by Juleigh Howard-Hobson
It has been suggested to me
That I am self-centered and oblivious to others. They hint at me,
These others I am supposedly oblivious to, that ‘me’
Is the first priority of me.
Which isn’t fair. If you ask me
I’d say, personally, that they just don’t like me
Simply because they are jealous of me.
It’s no big deal to me.
I understand, really, that what they dislike in me
Is really only what they lack in themselves. By putting me
Down, they can place themselves higher than me
And think themselves better than me
While all the time they really wish they were me
Or somebody just like me
by Susan Lloy
For a while I saw him around the Mile End. Scanning the streets for cigarette butts and coin. He was a junkie. We had a lot of them. A neighborhood bar was the supplier. Everyone knew, but nothing was done about it. Payoffs. He had a good bicycle – probably lifted – and always looked dirty and ragged. He was young, maybe twenty years my junior – sported a bandana, tall, lean and possessed fine chiseled features. Good stock gone badly. Tasty. I fancied him.
He didn’t notice me and I never saw him panhandling. The street was his dig, dusting treasures like an archeologist. Tucking them away in his pockets for safekeeping. Occasionally I saw him squeegee, non-aggressive and proud.
by Paul Lamb
Chris begged them all to linger a bit so he could rest, but off the two canoes went. He lay in the sand, staring at the empty blue sky, never wanting to rise again. He heard the snap of a trash bag being opened. Someone was cleaning up this time. Chris figured he should help, so he rolled onto his stomach then pushed himself up. He stumbled across the soft sand to where Danny was. On the way he bent to grab a napkin, but the breeze sent it tumbling toward the water. He didn’t chase it.
But the day was done now and he sat on his cooler before the fire, gorging himself on the smell of the steaks cooking. They would burn but he didn’t care. He would devour his and gnaw on the bone to get every crispy ounce of gristle and fat.
by Christopher DiCicco
When you’re dead, I’ll come into your house, collect your things in a burlap sack, and tell your wife you never loved her. I won’t even jimmy the window because—you know why. She leaves it open, undoes the lock—just for me.
Gail loves me, Daniel.
Every Sunday night.
While you attend midnight vigils, grasp at life like it’s an old lover, and plan whether you ought to let your brother speak at your service, I’m waiting in the woods, behind the pine trees creeping on the edge of your little piece of property.
I’m there watching for Gail’s signal, a bathroom light, on and off again.
by Sharon Goldberg
her hair striped pink for the occasion, her hands fidgeting in the pockets of her fake fur jacket, her eyes laser-focused on the parade of beautiful people invited to the premiere of his film, though none as beautiful as he and, there he is! finally! stepping from the stretch limo, regal in a slate gray suit, a pewter shirt, and a plum tie (although not the tie she’d sent him for his birthday), his eyes smoky blue, his smile aglow with fame, his body delicious and destined to meld with hers for eternity as she’d proclaimed in letter after letter after email after phone message after Facebook post after Twitter tweet, all of which affirmed their psychic connection, their spiritual twinship,
by Sharon Goldberg
“Nice to see you,” I said, hoping to end the conversation.
“When will your daughters be home?” Corie said.
I felt clammy. Reid cocked his head to one side.
“We don’t have children,” he said. “You must have Mara confused with someone else.”
“Of course you do! Mara showed me their pictures.”
I grabbed Reid’s arm and tugged him toward the door. “I have to go to the restroom. Find seats.” A few minutes later, I settled in next to him. He glared at me.
“What the hell was Corie talking about?”
“It’s nothing. I may have referred to Mandy and Jess as my daughters accidentally.”
“It won’t happen again.”
by Claude Clayton Smith
We envied Frankie Kane because he owned a pony, a shaggy black-and-white Shetland that he harnessed to a two-wheeled cart to give the littlest children rides around the block. Horses were unknown in our town— except for an old nag that annually plowed our garden on Freeman Avenue—yet we all longed to have one, like the cowboys on TV. And Frankie Kane had his own pony. He kept it in a garage like Old Lady Jober’s, which he had converted to a stall and stacked with bales of hay. Whenever the pony cart went around the block, I stood by the side of the road conspicuously, trying to look inconspicuous, as if I deserved a ride as much as the littlest children. But Frankie Kane never looked my way.
by Linda M. Crate
the nature of the beast
is green as the peridot in my
ring or perhaps darker
than that; “jealousy is an ugly
thing” you told me, dismissive of
it as if that could stave the
creature away it claws into me
arrows of desire and vehemence for
the one that was there before me i wonder
if you think about her more than me,
this creature smells of a gas spill
it rolls down me greasy rivers of self disgust
paints me an oil-soaked bird
by Manny Blacksher
When you are old and full of sleep, they stick
you in a box and sink you thirteen fathoms
deep off Florida. Un-magic kingdom
of the drowned undead, the great pacific
reefs suspend a sessile efflorescence
of retirement arcologies
till world’s-end, till stars swim in the sea,
until taxpayers rescind that immense
last dignity extending franchise into
senescence, Pilgrim, and cut the juice.
by Patricia George
The ad promised great things.
All he had to do was fill out the intention
to join form and mail it.
Our little cult promises:
1. Wings at maturity with a
2. Chance to rule your own kingdom
Must enjoy a subterranean work environment
Bound by a loyalty guarantee
To enjoy pulverizing and pillage
For your off hour’s entertainment and sport
With no adverse consequences
by Donna Laemmlen
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he insisted, before dragging me into the vortex without another word.
Towers of abandoned bicycles had cropped up everywhere–in trees and bushes, stuck to hillsides, stacked like rings on lampposts and Stop signs. The jarring sound of squeaking skateboards, roller blades, and scooters collided with the thump thump thump of stilts and Pogo sticks. Ian skipped at the head of a group of college-age women chanting a sorority slogan. Enterprising young musicians sold their CD’s. A blind woman tapped her way with a gold cane. The park was filled with a curious assortment of jugglers, acrobats, magicians, and protestors predicting the end of the world.
by Mary Beth O'Connor
Straightaway I telephoned Lottie, but her line was busy and busy and busy. So I got out my pieces of cloth and settled down to the quilt design I was working on, and just waited there till Paul took it into his head to get over his fit of pique and come back from the barn or wherever he’d gone to to sulk. I worried that he’d maybe gone into one of his torpors, but I wasn’t about to go out looking for him in the dark.
by Dennis Vanvick
The examination was complete, but the cause of the Princess’ obesity remained a mystery. Flummoxed, I knew I would be held accountable by the royal family. I suspected overeating, but was assured, by the nanny and the royal couple, that the Princess ate sparingly and sometimes actually skipped meals. Of course, as I later discovered, the nanny knew that the skipped meals were replaced with arequipe and postre de natas – very sweet and fattening desserts.
by Katharine Diehl
Fat virgins, neck-skin puckering.
Pudenda tremendous. That old Tom’s jeans
rising. They pork on their spit, smoky
blonde-haired hicks, haunches strung up
on their own plus-size assets. Ringlets gleaming,
quivering in heaps. They want nothing
but a white-scalloped plate to arrange it.
The socketed marrow to binge on.
by Reanne Derkson
Holly is standing in her doorway on display. She’s all skin and bones and bleached out panties and she’s lucky because her hair hangs down long enough to cover her nipples. She’s lucky because Mr. Actor and Mr. Dirty Divorce are both at her door, jaws to the floor, waiting to see whom she’ll invite in. She’s lucky because two is always better than none, and she thinks, just maybe, she can turn this mix-up into a napping ménage-trois and double her profits.
by Will Cordeiro
My parents paid for my smartphone since I argued it would help me find work. I could access online employment sites while taking the bus around the city, looking for a job the old fashioned way: face time, contacts.
Apparently no one wanted to hire a college drop-out with only half a business major.
by Simon Rhee
I am not the small beauty of the forest or the soft rhythm of the sea, unless the small beauty is roasted venison backstrap in gooseberry sauce and the soft rhythm something like miso-glazed salmon or grilled tilapia. Sometimes I wish that eyes and ears were like mouths and stomachs so that I could fill myself with sunsets and sonatas like bruschetta and chicken cordon bleu, but it’s hard to imagine little pieces of those things in my fingers and belly, so every time I give up the thought.
by Cindy E. King
I’ve lost my husband to a “scag,” the Scaglietti he proclaims is his pride
and joy, itself an emblem of our sports-car life. And indeed, we are the envy
of the neighborhood, never mind the tickets, traffic school, the course in anger
management, or that we no longer fuck face-to-face, a love embrace only sloth
and human own the anatomy to enjoy. He has handed down his greed,
heart-rot of the family tree, to our teen-aged daughter, whose budding lust
for cosmetics and clothes crams nearly two walk-in closets. Designer dresses, lustrine
by Sara Backer
New Year’s Envy: Both kinds of romantics—bitter and naïve—yearn for one-night magic to change everything into Gatsby’s parties, but green lights turn into red lights and DUIs in the sleet, and city doorways reek of recycled champagne.
Valustine’s Day: Not about sex, but dark chocolate, red lingerie, a dozen roses purchased at triple price, reserved tables of nouveau cuisine, and velvet boxes of diamond bracelets feeding the fever of what will you spend for me?
by Adam "Bucho" Rodenberger
What your library does not reveal:
The aversion to crowds, a feeling passed down by your father, though neither of you has
ever spoken to the other about it.
The collection of developed photographs, still in their processing envelopes, taken long
before the digital age. You remember all the faces, but not all the names attached to each
The bouts of depression pushed through during your high school years.
The regret of your first backseat tryst that sits in the back of your memory, black and
cloudy and always floating near the surface of any given moment.
The way you silently stalk the men you fall in love with, even decades later into middle
by Kate Dempsey
I am not interested in your poems about masturbation
Honestly. What’s between you and your fingers should stay there
I don’t care to share how you feel when you come
when you’re coming
I am about as fascinated in your bodily functions
as I am in the inner workings of hypertext transfer protocol
or your spirituality
by Cyndi Gacosta
now came the taste of something luscious
and pure which this devil’s tongue
could barely endure, panting and sweating,
oh, this fruit whose juice had sealed
this very cigar, he savored and swallowed
as though he drunk it straight from
the maiden’s nether lips, far much better
than pilgrims touching hands, and he swore
he heard her peal of laughter, his caterpillar
moustache had tickled Venus’s mound,
and beside her he shuddered and released
the final stream of smoke, her white dress
swaying and gliding about his reeling head
by Ed O'Casey
Christ has risen! And then He moved into my place, flopped down on my couch, and hasn’t risen since.
He eats my cereal and refuses to learn where my vacuum cleaner is.
He says His dad’s got work lined up for Him out of state, but the job doesn’t start until after Easter.
Some days, arriving home from work, I have to navigate legions of cripples and blind lepers to get to my front
door and into my living room, where He’ll be on my couch performing healings—
except, of course, during All My Children.
by Timothy Leyrson
On my first day the first thing I sell is a battery
operated vibrating vagina for $248.37.
I don’t think to imagine the customer using it,
but am certain to recommend water based lubricant
as lube with a silicone base can lead to chemical breakdown,
while thinking, Damn, that seems like a lot to spend on a sex toy.
Middle age couples tend to lose their manners
somewhere between the bar & the parking lot,
volleying winks & invitations to join them
across the counter. I always decline, & busy myself
with inventory, hoping that another soccer mom
hasn’t crammed a vibrator into her purse
while I had been re-shelving Geisha Boys or Gia’s Got
a Negro Problem 8.
by Kevin Bray
Girl number five was pretty, but her sweater from Sears announced a lack of hedonism or carnal awareness; I wanted the woman at the end of the queue who had dirty blonde hair, thin arms, and a waist around which I could link knuckles. She wore a tight red shirt, buttoned corset-like, that accentuated positive breasts, pin stripe pants, and three-inch conservative heels on patent-leather squared toe shoes. The crow’s feet around her eyes suggested intensity and playfulness. No one else at the table showed this degree of sexual dimorphism.
by Rory Duffy
He stepped up from the hay and followed the double barrels out through the shed door. Across the yard stood a hulking mass of shadow against the concrete.
“I thought I got rid of ye Bastards last night,” James called, in the blueness of the night light.
“I thought a cartridge in the back would be enough to keep ye off me land,” he added.
The mass of flesh was loping toward him, bubbling from its mouth. The moon jumped out and lit the scene and he could see that it was in fact the traveller that he had shot the previous night and dumped in the ditch at the bottom field. He was badly damaged and dirty and he had trouble moving.
“What in the name of Jesus?” James uttered.
The broken jaw of the fleshy mass moved and James felt the blood leaving his head while his heart pounded to get out of his chest.
“I’ll not harm you Boss,” the thing gurgled.
by M. Brett Gaffney
I’m not hungry anymore.
Gallbladder for breakfast,
a heart for lunch—
drunk on liquor-soaked livers,
sated with skin, all colors, all delicious,
some tough, some soft,
some inked, tattoos settling in my stomach.
by Ron Morita
When I asked Dan the Vice President of Advanced Technology if winning was everything, he smiled with that gleam of superiority so common among achievers and said, “No. But then again, what else is there?”
He’s the tree. I’m a vine climbing to the crown. He needed to mention outsourcing only once before I knew the lay of the land. I went to the Bigs, who believe that the heft in the wallets makes them omniscient. My talent is finding an obsession and agreeing. It’s amazing how guys with the world at their feet need approval. I lay it on thick until my antennae find another hobby horse to ride. The key is the hallway bull sessions, coffee break chats, and small talk at the urinals.
When I read a completed story back to myself I sometimes think, “Shit. Is this going to be a trigger? Or is this going to offend someone?” Then I snap out of it and remember that when it comes to writing my truths I can’t concern myself with placating others so they can feel more safe. I wasn’t raised to hide behind the screen of Calm and Nice and Safe.
“Occupational Hazard” started off as a single line: “I almost died, or was killed, really, three different times, by three different girls.” That line came to me, and I wrote it down, and left it alone, since I was working on something else at the time. Then a few weeks later, when I started actually writing what would become “Occupational Hazard,” the rest of the story filled itself in. I had no idea that the story would be about a chef until I started writing it.
This tale grew out of discussions with my wife about how to live life to its fullest. I feel that the ideal lies somewhere between hedonism and asceticism. I don’t want to use the word “moderation” because it sounds so boring and might be hypocritical coming from someone who’s still guilty of boozy excess now and again. We have to learn to moderate our behavior or – like the Princess in the story – bad things will befall us.
I love Williamsburg earth pigments. I see them as the anchor of my work. My favourites are the standard umbers and ochres and blacks. In contrast the native earths are gritty and have a texture like “jellywhip” which I love to use to soften the clunky pigments or add substance to the transparent pigments. Texture is very important to me. My favourite color is a crimson PBr175 from Old Holland which is hard to find, I use it to tone down my quindaricridones and enhance my earth reds without losing their richness.
It’s a thrill when sculpting to feel in touch with the artisan ancestors by repeating exactly the same manual gestures, understanding better the many artifacts from the plethora of cultures and eras. Through practice, the hand-eye coordination blends the conscious and the unconscious, and we begin to feel part of the collective lake of consciousness. I feel that creating things with the hands is like keeping the sap flowing through the branches and roots of a plant, keeping the organism (myself and the collective consciousness) alive and healthy.
In person she is the humblest, nicest most unassuming person you could wish to meet, but on the pole she is an absolute goddess – so expressive, so beautiful. I painted from a photo (there’s no way anyone could hold that pose for more than 10 seconds!!!) I used the technique of grisaille and painted her first in detailed black and white, then slowly started washing about 8-10 layers of lightly tinted oily glaze over it, letting each layer dry before applying the next. With each glaze she came to life more and more and leapt out of the canvas at me!
At age nine I wrote a “novel” on a big notebook. Each chapter was exactly five pages long and had a hand-drawn-and-colored illustration every other page. The protagonist was blond, American, and inexplicably popular. He encountered misfortune after misfortune and blamed a black cat for all his woes. Obviously, that “novel” sucked big-time, but I still keep it and look at it from time to time just for the laughs. I’m glad I started so early so that I could fulfill my quota for terrible writing and hurry up and start banging out passable stories.