Bubble Gum Under the Table-David Lohrey

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How many canes can one observe without finally exploding?

He walks with a cane and smells like a mouse.

He has food caked on his sleeves.

There are stains on his cuffs. He smells of urine and old socks.

His wife attacks him; she berates him.

The old man will die of emphysema.

My mother promised to leave. “Why would you go to his funeral?”

She didn’t want a priest or a minister, she wanted show girls and fireworks.

She wanted to humiliate him. She ended up disgracing herself.

She’s glad he’s dead. Glad he’s gone. “Hallelujah.”

 

He begs not be resuscitated, but she forgets.

He wants to die in peace, why not?

She is asked but is silent. The paramedics smash out his teeth

and jam a pipe down his throat. He lives for days.

He keeps a lock on the door of the den. He runs in there to hide.

She’d slap him in the face. She’d kick him. She’s a drunk.

She gulps a few glasses of white wine and wants to tell her tale.

It’s a story of abandonment, an empty nest. “Get out!”

She refuses to get his meds. She tells him to get them himself.

He can’t walk. He can’t drive. She is too busy: “I have a life, too!”

 

He is deaf but she accuses him of faking.

It is true that when we talk about money, his hearing comes back.

Suddenly, his hearing is perfect. When I mention money,

he understands the figures.

He smiles when he gets a bargain. Money talks.

When she complains, the batteries stop.

He can’t make them work. He turns them off.

He’s grown tired of listening.

Sixty-one years. That voice. The rage. The badgering. The nagging.

She wants him to wipe the shit off the toilet: “You clean it!”

 

Unhappiness is intolerable.

When does it turn to hate?

Why does it turn to hate?

 

She drinks white wine from a tumbler.

She calls her cousin in Kingston

and says she hopes he’ll soon die.

He is 67 but looks 80.

She wants some love before she dies.

She wants some male attention.

“I thought we were going out for dinner. I’ve been waiting.”

“You’re drunk. I can’t go out with you now.”

She can barely stand and stinks. She’s been drinking all day.

Booze makes her hate. It brings out the rage, the loathing.

 

She is ready to die to make a statement.

Oh, it boils over, like a chemical reaction: quick lime and water.

She overflows with self–hatred. It is volcanic.

My arrival sets the fuse. The hatred can’t be contained.

She belongs to the IRA. She is ready to die for a cause.

He sits on the floor in front of the heater giving instructions,

making judgements.

The body goes. He is cold.

When she says she has a friend who has offered to go down on her,

I take my cue. It is time. Where is the exit?


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.

Ita and Tom-Jimmi Campkin

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The town surrounds the hill like a doughnut, and we are the hole.  We lay side by side, staring at clouds like nature’s Rorschach.  Here are warriors with spears and here are fucked up dolphins with five tails.  There is a strand of DNA being broken apart with pliers and there is a dick with three balls.  Three balls.  She observes it dispassionately and says, dryly; enough to give anyone a stomach ache.  Then she claps her hands a few times and shakes her head.

We endure below the waterline with the scum and the fools, but on this hill we can exist, and stroke the feet of angels.  She tells me to splay my fingers out wide and to comb them through the clouds, to feel divinity in the webs.  I half-heartedly swat at thin air and she stubs a cigarette out onto the back of my hand.   Raising one shoeless foot she traces out her name, lets out a fart with a wince and demands another cigarette.  I feel my phone vibrate but this hill has rules.  No technology.  No distractions.  No unnecessary conversation.  I wish I could live my life the way I live on this hill, staring at frozen water and being burned alive.

In the nearby churchyard she has a favourite grave.  A young Italian couple died on the same day over thirty years ago.  The tomb is expensive but forgotten – once pristine marble now dirty, a bunch of rotting artificial flowers in the honeycomb vase, slowly sinking into the ground head first.  I ate her out on the cold stone, looking up at that glorious landscape – the round thighs, the scarred rolling tummy and through the gap in her tits to that gasping, eye-rolling face.  But then my eyes lingered on their names, rusting and bleeding onto the off-white slab… names chosen by parents for children, and I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm anymore.  Rolling off, I told her I had a sore throat and she didn’t speak to me for a week.

This is all memory to me now.  She sleeps somewhere beyond where angels and demons sleep, a special place where she connects to the planets in far off systems and keeps them turning.  The hill is no more and the hole is filled.  There are no clouds, and I swipe my hands through a vacuum.  I try to make shapes out of the nothingness, and I just end up trying to marry specks of dust into sculpture.

Just before the end, we lay in a trembling embrace.  She hadn’t stood under clean water in three weeks and her hair stuck to her skin at every opportunity.  I would do the same.  She looked at me through gelatinous eyes.  I’m just so tired… and she smiled sadly.  I’m terrified because I’ve never seen her cry before.

A few years ago the town planners bulldozed the church and built a supermarket over the graveyard, the dead trapped under the aisles.  I hate it but I tell myself; it’s just the next logical step.  God creates Man.  Man creates Walmart.  Walmart destroys God.


Jimmi Campkin is a “Writer, photographer, creator of SANCTUARY. 16bit child, INFP with clinical nostalgia and red wine for blood.” You can enjoy more of his work at jimmi campkin.com.

Self Addressed Stamp Envelope-Erich Michaels

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There are paths I walked in my youth

Enough times you might still see me there

A needle stuck in a groove

This is my life [tick]

This is my life [tick]

This is my life [tick]

Stop and tell me my future

Stay and read my leaves

Tell me that despite

My widdershin path

That I’ll be all right

If I don’t believe you…make me

I wrote a letter to that young wanderer

Using my address from that time

Across the top: Erich Michaels (adolescent)

In it I said:

Yes…she will break your heart, but…

Enjoy the ride

Also, don’t block out her name

She deserves better than that

That tattoo will be a regret

Not just because it’s needle and thread

Bottle of India ink, prison-chic

But because it doesn’t represent you

Have a little more fun in college

Yes, grades are important

But, so are friends

You’ll regret not going to graduate school

But I’m here to tell you

You’ll marry a wonderful woman

You’ll raise her fantastic son

And you’ll make a baby boy

Who fills the parts of your heart

That you thought were condemned

This will be your new path

You’ll be right where you’re supposed to be

And everything will be alright

This is my life [tick]

This is my life [tick]

This is my life [tick]

Just

Let it

Play


Erich Michaels describes himself as  “just trying to share the human experience.”  He has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, but find himself writing SOPs (lather, rinse, repeat) in order to make a living, which can be detrimental to the creative process.  You can find him on the road to recovery at Erich Michaels.  Every journey begins with a single step, right?

Strike a Match-Basilike Pappa

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Some are atheist to thorns / star-crossed / easy pure hope / hurl quotes at you / colorful futures / white-bearded universe / prophets without a clue / no fishnet can hold the sea

Gods / distant spies / needle makers / cracked open jaws / highway wolves / gaping / smoke up curses / under a ripe moon / the world is potbellied

Impressive projects / dead lines / scrape the sky red / thundering ornaments / refrigerator romance / our darling forests turned into floors / not our feet over flowers

Waves of chlorine / bleached urban legends / army civilization / vengeful magazines / isolated mouth / words lost in time difference / return from the dead like a bad smell

Suits drive bright machines / exquisite oysters / indulged / emptied / lean legs / pants glittering / for want of soul or sex / this life tastes like sleeping

To wake is to watch / so scare off all rhyming / be fast / abrasive / tight fist / and amnesiac/ most of our loves are strangers now

Be heart-wrought doubt / no reassurance / be that diamond you’d devour / take extract from a wild summer / and strike a match


Basilike Pappa lives in Greece. She likes her coffee black, her walls painted green and blue, her books old or new. She despises yellow curtains and red tape. She can’t live without chocolate, flowers and her dog. Places she can be found are: kitchen, office, living room. If she’s not at home, I don’t know where she is. You can find Basilike up late with a notebook in the Silent Hour.

The Lambs Awaken-David Lohrey

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It was time. Every confession, a taunt, an effort

to denigrate, if not herself, then me.

Old age invites humiliation but being disgusting

is a choice. It’s a fashion statement; it’s a great way

to get back at a snotty son, prove him wrong.

 

He doesn’t come from a good family and there is not

a goddamned thing he can do about it. The little shit.

She’ll show him. He wants people to think well of him.

She’ll expose him as a fake. She’ll show everyone

his family is nothing more than trash.

 

He thinks he’s so refined with his fancy degrees.

She’ll get everyone to see him for what he really is,

the son of Catskill Mountain hillbillies, potato farmers,

depression-era desperados, the kind of people who pimp

their daughters to Brooks Brothers businessmen.

 

They were sent to the Big City to join typing pools,

spending ½ their time in the pool and ½ on their knees.

That’s the so-called middle-class from which he descends,

little clones of Clarice; yes, her! That lost girl with nightmares

who joined the FBI. She learned to hide behind shiny shoes.

 

College is America’s finishing school where we learn to talk sweet.

One learns to eat brie and drink white wine when what we crave is draft beer

and a basket of pretzels. We learn to wear slippers and don silk jackets.

This is how some people live, sure, but there are many more who’d prefer to loll about,

watching TV, half-naked, looking more like a stud in a wife-beater.

 

The veneer of respectability is thin, we see it now;

it’s out in the open. We got it with the Clintons, we see it in Trump.

It is easier to hate than to see ourselves.

The money doesn’t disguise who we really are.

Only the Kennedys had enough to hide their smell.

 

How much perfume can one wear? JFK knew what he wanted

from the WH typing pool; Jackie O called them the White House

dogs. Bill Clinton left the back door open. Arkansas state troopers

procured the typists. This is what made a man of Hillary.

Women learn to adapt. It’s the men who don’t understand.


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.

She would the small Swift be-Lois E. Linkens

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It was a late night when the notion came;

Black and atrous in the dry car park.

Night was cruel – weekend smelled like beer and dark,

A mouth-organ’s growl ran as nuns in shame

Behind her heel, music and love like red

Syrup oozed through her white gold flesh. ‘Kind sweet

Abandon – here I sink my thirsting teeth

Into thy bitter lemon starlight, said

To tell us  – close and fragrant – of our gloom.

My word – how I am stuck in this life’s cement!’

She wants to watch the Osprey, awful claws and

Black-tipped wings abeat to topple Doom,

The horrible slicing of silver flesh —

Puccoon drops t’wards foamy throes, Death’s velvet

Smalt does seduce the coy in brilliance

She curiously craves. Still, as the Osprey fight,

She would the small Swift be; ‘Oh tireless Swift,

Who sleeps in flight, thy burnet body quick

Like wind. No time to think or grieve, no rights

To charmed senses to hapless misconceive.’


[ Lois is a poet and student from England. She is studying the literature of the Romantics and hopes their values and innovations will filter through into her own work. She is working on longer projects at present, with a hope to publish poetry collections and novels in the years to come. She is a feminist, an nostalgic optimist, and a quiet voice in the shadows of Joanne Baillie and Charlotte Smith. It is a pleasure to present her work, and you can find more of it at Lois E. Linkens.]

The Effortless Brass-Jimmi Campkin

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I’d known The Boy about six years before I realised he had feelings.  Until then, I’d assumed he was like a dead tree – enigmatic and interesting to look at but essentially hollow and lifeless.  The Boy only made sense on drugs – taken by himself and his audience – but in that narrow alleyway of lucidity there was a path to reaching him.  Like those on the fringes of death who witness the long path to the bright light, if you were willing to get as fucked up as he could and did, you’d find windows where he made sense.

I remember lying on the floor, smashing my teeth on a brick, convinced it was a stale piece of bread, and seeing him standing above me, upright, without the usual hunching of the shoulders.  His voice clear and concise, not broken and wavering.  I crawled in the general direction of his shoes, blood dribbling down my chin and spitting bits of tooth and gum out onto the concrete floor.  I grabbed a handful of dust and rubbed it into the smashed remains, feeling the first burning embers of pain even this far gone.  He looked down on me with an expression I didn’t think he was capable of; pity.

He said; She smells like a spring thunderstorm.  A spring thunderstorm.  That was exactly what she smelt like, what she sounded like, what she essentially was.  A storm in a fruitful season.  He crouched onto his haunches and I met his eyes, but they moved too fast for me.  Curling into a foetus, I began to violently spasm, kicking and dragging my body in a circle.  He told me later that the retching created petal splatters of blood around my head…. like a scarlet daisy. 

*

The Boy’s earliest memory was watching a fox with a broken leg trapped in an old oil drum, slowly starving to death over a period of two weeks.  Every day that summer he’d clamber through thistles and nettles taller than him to find the poor beast inside the metal coffin, rattling and whining.  Initially he would sit apart from it terrified and fascinated, as the animal crashed and groaned, trying to free itself from its prison.  But as it became weaker, the noises died down to a soft howl, gentle as the wind through a keyhole.  Towards the end, he would push a crate against the drum and peer inside, looking down at the fox as it looked back up at him….breathing heavily but with a look on its face of utter serenity.  No noise, no whining or struggling, just two damaged lifeforms staring at each other – one at the beginning of its life and one nearing the end.  He once told me; the fox went to sleep, and I kept going back to see if it would wake up.  But something ate its eyes, and it didn’t move no more. 

*

I still go to the old oil drum, now rank and loathsome, filled with black muck and vague glimpses of rib and snapped femur.  I throw my old cigarettes inside, hoping one day I’ll feel bad about it, but I never had the depth of feeling that The Boy did, with or without drugs.  I take enough blotter acid to wallpaper most family homes, but the sun still looks normal and the trees don’t sing anymore.  I push through the thistles and weeds, remembering the pain this little child went through to experience feeling.  How he’d return home covered in little white nettle bumps on his arms, legs and face.  How he’d never cry, even as he slept on a mattress damp from beneath the floor.  Born to indifference, raised in a slum; just a product of bad decisions and post-industrialisation, both parents dead in a public toilet cubicle.

I buried The Boy in a quiet corner of the wasteland.  I picked the spot especially; surrounded by nettles guarding what they could not harm, within sight of the drum and blasted by the rays of the noon sun.  He rests under his little barrow mount, like ancient kings, away from all the troubles of the world.  And that is what haunts me; leaves me so helpless and jealous – not that his troubles are now over, but that nothing ever troubled this simple, stupid Boy in the first place.


Born in November 1983, I have been writing in some form or another for most of my life, but I began to take it seriously as a career around 2003/2004.  Since then I have produced a novel, a novella and a series of short stories some of which are loosely linked into an overarching anthology.

Most of my stories come under the wide umbrella of ‘general fiction’, but I have experimented with genre pieces.  My short stories tend to be bittersweet, nostalgic, sometimes melancholic and (on occasion) examine the darker side of human nature and obsessions.

I welcome you to my site Jimmi Campkin, and I hope you find something here to please you.  If not, below you’ll find a big picture of me to scream obscenities at.