[Photo: Nasim Aghdam]
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[Photo: Nasim Aghdam]
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“I am lost.
labyrinthe in static motion,
glass veins and sticky lacerations
amphetamine-laced burrowing into skin
and I’ve forgotten your scent
the burrs lay flat against my hide
I’ve long since ignored.
friction, my husk ignited,
and the pines burn in my flesh
in a spot I cannot reach
and you are distant
and they beat the fight out of me
and you are gone
and they left me to die.
I am lost.
light turned sour in smog air,
a paned window painted bloody,
small and afraid.
quiet, undulating, sickly pulsating
dead, dead, dying.
I reached out,
why weren’t you there?”
“I am Tofu, a twenty-one year old poet. I reside in British Columbia, in a rural neighbourhood, surrounded by power lines and open fields. My work is influenced by trauma, uncomfortable sensations, and the people of my past, present, and future. I’ve trekked through periods of poverty, chaos, peace and growth, and weave my experiences into intimate and vulnerable poetry. I hope only to encourage thought and empathy from the people who read my work.”
It took calamity to make me understand that my life was small, my vision and awareness a pin hole in the sky. I was socialized in the dark arts of Americanism, taught to lust for the material things that could only be a manifested yield of hardy labor. I was chewed up in my supernatural quest for the bliss that sprung forth from larger televisions, cars that had that new car smell, deep roots that provide a foundation for carrying my esoteric knowledge to my children, so they too can carry forth, break bones and spend a million hours chasing their own tails in the race to the finish line. It is all so fleeting. I was a crumbled-up piece of paper by the time the forsaken knowledge had come to me. The darkness would only recede in the presence of light.
It is here that I yearn for the archetypal “outsider,” best articulated by Colin Wilson’s seminal work of the same name. I am reminded of my youthful lust of the lost wanderings of my heroes. Jack Kerouac’s One the Road dropped an atom bomb on my consciousness before I had graduated high school. The quest for freedom and journey away from the norms and social mores became a theme that fascinated me. I devoured Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Wolfe, even going back to James Fennimore’s Natty Bumppo, an early proto-typical hero of the journey into the great unknown. But, as the years fell into the abyss, I became the cartoon character American stuck in the greasy rat race, blithering about my desires for a life not led in the darkness. I can hear Charles Bukowski’s refrain, “it all came too late for me.”
It only took two paragraphs into a reading of Nolan Devine’s work to realize that for starters, he doesn’t give a fuck. It seems to be a good starting point for a writer, a place from which one finds the ability to freely articulate their experience. I was pleasantly disturbed by the imagery in some of his works, much in the same way I was with William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, or Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero in my youth. But, to clump his writing into shocking narratives would be lazy and a gross over-simplification. Devine seems to be articulating his life, or at least his perception of it. Reality can be subjective. Being your own narrator is difficult. Yet, in the end, it doesn’t matter when finding the best shadow of the place between imagination and experience.
I spent as much time with Devine’s writing, as I have with any writer over the past few years. I was pulled into his world of bums sleeping behind dumpsters, the seedy underbelly of random hookups, the new adventures in strange cities, and I discovered amid all of it a deep desire to be free. It did not become apparent what was the impetus for his desire to stay outside of the rat race, to have the freedom to float down rivers and sleep in cars while the rest of us languished in small offices. I took from his narratives that unlike myself, he made a conscious decision to live life a certain way, a man who is living on his own terms. Perhaps that is where he finds his audience, people who are clamoring for freedom from their own lives devoid of adventure, freedom.
As someone constantly looking for unique voices, I was stunned and shocked by Nolan Devine. His world is a place that he has shared with us in a unflinching manner. We are taken into and shown all of the gritty darkness as well as the beautiful little moments that popped up on his journey into the unknown. I am very grateful for Nolan for participating in this interview. He is an gifted writer, who has inspired me greatly, but through our correspondence I have found him to be a thoughtful person. I like to be challenged, and Nolan has certainly given me exactly what I needed.
Jasper Kerkau: Your journey seems to be rooted in a form of liberation, very reminiscent of the American story of the wanderer, made popular by Jack Kerouac and finding its
way into American literature. You suggest in your writing that your lifestyle is a choice. How important is your writing to your journey, and, conversely, your journey to your
Nolan Devine: They form a natural bond. The way I live is both by choice and not. I’ve been below or just above the poverty line my entire adult life so living in my car and on public lands is a necessity. But to wander is a choice. To live an unconventional life is a choice. I feel a strong and inner urge to drift. It helps and harms me. And from all this I cull my writing. I don’t live as a bum for material but it just happens that way. And hey, waking in the trunk of your car covered in puke or sharing dumpster food with a naked homeless gal makes for good material.
You mention Kerouac and you’re right, there’s a long American tradition of young people wandering to find themselves. From On the Road to Wild to countless unknown journeys so much more important. America is vast and beautiful. Its landscape inspires and provides these opportunities. My country is fucked up but for those other parts I’m thankful.
I like to root myself in history. Know there’s others like me. That they’ve existed forever and will carry on into infinity. It helps me feel a tad less alone. Less insecure about whether what I’m doing is right. I didn’t even enjoy On the Road or The Dharma Bums but liked that past-into-present context. I guess I stab my little stake into history. Form a small column on a long and storied timeline.
JK: There is something uniquely challenging about your narratives. I found your stories to be engrossing and, at times, very difficult to read–and, conversely, stop reading. Is there
something liberating about being able to sing your life with such candor?
ND: Yes there is. I learn a lot about myself in my writing. To hold back would be to deny an opportunity to explore my inner self. In tackling difficult material over the years, from suicide attempts to letting a man suck me off so I could afford rent, I’ve come out the other end not embarrassed but free.
When I write about something real people respond to it. Relate to it. That’s the thing I hear the most in emails. I know I look like an awful person in some of my pieces and that’s okay. I know some of the things I write are off-putting and that’s okay. I never aim to be shocking, just truthful. Sometimes the truth is shitty, uncomfortable, and hard to read. Conversely it can be a great unifier. Or at the very least my readers can finish a piece and be thankful they don’t shit their pants as often as I do haha.
Finally, I don’t let it enter my head how people will respond to a piece. I’m my first and most important audience. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I hold back on or don’t know the best way to tackle. I have pieces I’ve mulled over for years and still haven’t released as they deal with delicacy. People know when you get it right or fuck it up. So I hope others respond to my stuff but don’t blame them if they need to put it down. It’s no big deal.
JK: I have come to understand talking to hundreds of writers over the last few years that all writers owe a debt of gratitude to another writer or group of writers. For myself, I believe it was the Beat Generation. What writers had the greatest impact on your writing?
ND: My whole life I’ve been a reader. My mom is a teacher and encouraged my sisters and I to read nonstop. Lots of trips to the library and whatnot. We’re all awful at math but great with books. I didn’t know it but the first couple decades of my life honed and trained my tastes.
In college, I read all the usual authors others align me with: Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson, Palahniuk, etc. Writers that deal with grit and gross. But for me my biggest debts are owed to the show Freaks and Geeks, the movie Happiness, and the storytelling podcast Risk! All taught me how to balance raw and delicate material with storytelling sensibilities. Taught me the importance of tone. I don’t care if someone is a great line to line writer. I just want to feel that what they’re saying is honest and interesting. That’s what’s so great about WordPress. Lots of raw but real writers.
All that being said, I love Ted Conover and Jon Krakauer. Both inspire me. Their writing is clear, clean, and thoughtful. But the writer who’s influenced me the most is Patrick Falterman of HitchTheWorld.com.
He passed away but we were lucky enough to find each other on WordPress while he lived. His writing ability and adventurous spirit inspires my writing and life to this day. If you enjoy things like Kerouac go check him out. He spent years hitchhiking South America and paddling in the Amazon. What he did with his life and writing is incredible. I think of him often. If I make a tenth the mark he did I’ll die a happy man.
JK: You seem to have amassed a large following. How important is it to you in your evolution as a writer to get that feedback from others and to interact?
ND: It’s both great and not great. As I alluded to earlier, I’m my most important audience. I write for myself. For catharsis and discovering who I am. But feedback is important, whether critical or positive. There’s nothing wrong with an ego boost from a nice comment. I check my email in the morning and if I wake to kind words from a stranger it makes me happy. There’s so much media in the world so to know that someone will take minutes, hours, or days to read my stuff is touching. I would write even if I had no readers but to have an audience is nice.
When I started I only had a few readers. My sister and friends who clicked the link when I posted to Facebook. Then one day a video I made went viral and I gained a ton of readers. From there it’s been a slow but upward increase. As fun as it is to see a big number in my follower count it’s frustrating to still have to work all the time to get a fraction of those people to read. To even click on my piece. It’s a never ending battle but I get it.
If I post something I feel great about but get little feedback I feel defeated. I get over that but for a few hours it’s a bummer. That’s why I write for myself. I have to feel secure in knowing what I put out is worthy of my standards. Equals or surpasses past work. I still ride that up and down in hoping for a positive public reaction. But in the end it’s for me. I’m my most important follower.
JK: Do you have an advice for new writers on perfecting their craft and creating audience?
ND: Get to it! There’s a reason everyone says you just need to buckle down and write. I’ve been at it for fifteen years. Only in looking back at the past five am I happy with what I read. When I wrote something a decade ago I thought it was great but now wonder what form of mold must’ve been growing on my brain. That means you can always be improving. Always be critical but still trust yourself. Take advice from others but know the limits of that. In college I took many workshops with writers whose stories bored me. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have valuable input but it taught me to always give myself the final word.
Think about more than reading for inspiration. You can learn about storytelling from so many mediums. From the people in your life and all around you. Craft is useless if you can’t tell a compelling story. Take notes every time you get an idea. If you think your shit sucks, if your talent doesn’t match your taste, just keep at it. Write for yourself. Write with honesty. Write stuff you’ll never share with others to see what you do when there are no self conscious restraints.
As for audience, I wish I could say. I read and interact with lots of writers on here. That helps get you out in the community. Plus it’s just a nice thing to do, to let someone know you appreciate their hard work. I print out my stories and leave them in Little Free Libraries or the pages of books whose contents are similar to mine. I respond to every email and thank every reader.
The chances are that your stuff will never reach many people or make any money. But that’s okay. Build your body of work and have something to look back on and be proud of. If the audience finds you then they’ll have years of stuff to read. If they don’t then hey you’re a better writer. It’s a long life. Who knows what’ll happen. At the very least you can print it all out and use it for cum rags.
Nolan Devine’s writings can be found at Gabfrab.
Interview with Nolan Devine (Gabfrab) forthcoming.
It’s hard to get laid. Even harder when you’re homeless. I live in a parking lot in Austin, Texas. It’s surrounded by baseball fields where little kids hit tee balls and bigger ones slug softballs. On Friday nights I watch the games. Next to my spot is a dumpster. It’d be fun to shit in there but my parking lot has a bathroom. For some this structure acts as a four walled crack chamber. Beside the toilet I find burnt foil and straws. On the outer wall of the stall there’s a huge scrawl of graffiti. It’s been painted over in beige but you can read what it says: HOWARD DEAN SUCKS IT FOR METH. Other bums, the true bums, stream in and out with beer, making way for the woods. At night gutter punks sit in the stands though I don’t know what they do. There’s also more car…
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My father tells me that tongue is a paper
Which should be folded
For world now is a cruel place
The voices here are murdered much before they can be heard
I tell my father how
this world is a blind man
Stepping on the dead bodies of children and men who stood up
As their tongues became iron crutches
“Gurney” he corrects
He tells me how voices are crushed
By the men like Venus fly trap
Eating unless nothing is left but fear
Fear to speak out loud
Fear to shout before the mountains echo back with “shhhhhhh”
This world makes a rosary out of the beheaded souls
And chants the name of oppression
As some child is murdered and thrown in a river for taking birth on a land
Where stigma learnt to walk first, head on
I then tell my father how I have learnt to whisper
Whisper through the hidden metaphors
Making my words a guerrilla force
Fighting against those who never choose to read between the lines
How my words are peaceful protest
Against a world where a foetus is drained in a toilet
And a mother is murdered for giving birth to rebellion
My father is a brave man
Scared for the life of a daughter
When being daughter is a fearful statement
Ending with the probabilities of death demanding mercy like a lost exclamation mark
My father is a brave man
Fearing outrage in a blood
Which has always meant to be kept cool
Like the lavender room
Where hang the pictures of women
Who died for shouting out loud
When patriarchy groped them, put fingers inside their vaginas
To cure them from taking a stand otherwise called as “hysteria”
My father is a brave man
Except he fears this world for a dandelion child
Whom he has protected against the winds of change
Where the rivers are filled with blood and bodies lie dry on streets
“Keep sush because it’s better sometimes” he says
But what he means is
Paper can be folded seven times
So fold your tongue into smallest version
Before it can’t be folded no more
And then scream, wail, ululate
Because in the end
A voice unheard is guilty silence
Scratching the insides of its cheeks
Before blood oozes out
And war kills the silent ones first
My father is a brave man
Except sometimes he tells his daughter to stand
And shout in a deaf crowd
But what he means is
“If they can’t hear, make them see”
So I pick up my pen and write…
[My name is Bharti Bansal. I am 21 year old Indian poet. I write on depression, self esteem, sadness. I have been published thrice in Indian anthologies. People can read more of my work on my Instagram.
We are extending submission deadline upon request from several participants.
Submit photos to email@example.com
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
They all said the same,
that the light
at the end
of the tunnel
had been switched off.
She didn’t believe it.
Who would do such a thing?
So she went in search of it
wended her way along
the long dark tunnel
until she saw it
just a speck at first,
a glimmer of
from the outside in
while leaving the dark
Perhaps they were right
someone had turned it off
She scrambled up towards
to the end of the tunnel
and searched for the switch.
She found it
turned it on
all was bathed in light
flooded with bright white light
but still she saw nothing
bathed in light,
in blinding light
she fell back
into the dark
into the emptiness of the dark.
[Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality and writes hoping to find an audience for her musings. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Peach Velvet, Light Journal and So It Goes. Find Lynn at: https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com and https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/]
The sun is a hornet sting in his eyes but his stagger started with that twisted sauce that dude hit him with at the coffee shop bathroom where he screwed Suzie in retribution against Samantha. The pain of that loss was still so fresh.
Empty and meaningless body contortions while staring at the underside of a piss stained toilet. Should have stayed home that day too. She wanted someone to love her, that’s why she shook when you hugged her, apologized when she climaxed and asked for more.
Two steps and a jerk of the muscles sends him down the sidewalk. Two more and the convulsions are there again in force, arms spasm outstretched and fingers go clenching at air trying smash it’s emptiness into something meaningful. Two more and the blood trails seeping from forearms that stink of vinegar and iron are drip dropping onto his shoes with a pitter patter of hope draining onto leather.
His white v-necked shirt is clean if you ignore the spots of cherry red revealed as a splatter pattern seeping from the inside. His pants are sagging and baggy, deep brown with a tan cinch belt and pockets on pockets bulging with random items. His has Nikes, now personalized with scarlet across their tips.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Too much this time. Way too much. There. Priorities. Why? Needle. Get one. Man across the street, has the look. Get another rig. Block it out. Don’t think, just act. Shut it down.
He asks the stranger if he has as a needle and of course he does, doesn’t everyone? The stranger says that he is clean of disease and has never used it despite the crimson hue inside the chamber. The stranger points out the blood running down his forearms and warns that it might draw attention.
He stutter steps, two forward, a shuffle to the side, quick spin, dancing to the demands of the chemicals. Lips split open into a full bodied smile, lopsided to the left and sparks of intensity carve out a luminosity in his blue eyes that stretches past the borders of happiness into ecstasy beyond understanding.
His face glows with inner fire, radiant passion – he’s got a zeal about him now that belies the shit show dance moves that propel him down the street at an uneven but driven keel. He’s on a mission.
Samantha. There. By the bus depot, god she looks amazing even on the streets. I wonder if she still loves me. I told her she was Sparkles, that her fire was so bright I could see it in the darkest moments. Why?
Her moan when he hugs her says “thank god you made it here and I found you, you idiot.”
The sun is a hornet sting, the moon is a muse shining a halo of opportunity in the falling dusk.
The zeal is faded as his eyes dull to the gray of the muse and her siren song of possibilities missed. They both rest against the wall inside the parking garage which hides them. His arms are full of her and maybe the stranger, his veins are on fire and his dreams are impressions of futures that could have been, envy soaks them. He’s going to die again, he knows it.
He sits in the parking garage until the stars haze out and the moon disappears.
[Melting Neurons resides in Wenatchee, WA where he lives with his wife and stuffed owl, they both hail from Bend, OR originally. He has lived in more than 75 cities across the country at various points including Boston and New Bedford, MA. His writing centers around a lifetime filled with adventures in schizoaffective bipolar, addiction, and the dichotomy of being everything from a corporate executive to homeless on the streets for years. Someday he hopes his estranged children will discover these pieces, and he can regain a relationship with them. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and enrolled in Wenatchee Valley College studying English and Creative Non-Fiction.]
They’ve outlawed torture because it doesn’t work,
but they forgot to tell my little brother.
I went to Madrid and wanted paella but all I found
was frozen pizza.
I traveled to Saudi Arabia and knew exactly what I wanted,
but found the road to Mecca closed to outsiders.
Americans claim to be welcoming. The kids in Tibet cry “hello,”
but when the Chinese visit Brooklyn, the kids shout “Fuck you.”
It’s the only language they know.
The kids in Harlem are no globe-trotters. They’ve never
even crossed the street.
Their female teacher doesn’t wear underpants, but her neighbor,
a man, wears panties. They claim it is the children who have a lot
When the infants say they are not ready for anal sex,
their teacher makes them sit by themselves in the corner.
The six-year-old is sucking her thumb is told in no uncertain terms
to remove her thumb and find a boy to satisfy.
We’re heading for Broadway to watch a play with the provocative
title, Rotten. The actors throw tomatoes at the audience, after checking
first to see how they voted.
Righteous indignation supplants despair. Feeling superior sure beats
finding fault with oneself. The world is so stupid.
Diversity works like this: first, we take over. Children of the Empire visit
and are told they’re wonderful.
After the bombing, we legalize gay marriage. Napalm in the morning,
but the bathhouses are to remain open, announces the Pentagon spokesperson.
The President is trans. Her name is Annabelle. The debate question
she couldn’t answer was how it is she manages to look so fabulous.
She bursts out laughing and then begins to sob. After a break,
she gets a standing ovation.
It has been announced that everyone in the country lives in one city,
Houston, coast to coast; zip codes may vary.
Why bother with different names like LA and Atlanta. The whole
country is one big Houston: the bars, the malls, the adult bookshops.
Now that it’s been outlawed, kissing between men and women,
there are fewer law suits. There is no population growth. What have
we learned? Men can’t get pregnant.
Houston, Illinois has higher taxes than Houston, Texas, but New York’s
Houston is the worst. People there no longer keep addresses. Their
official residence is in Puerto Rico.
I was born David but call myself Dawood, Princess of the Desert.
I like getting my nails done. What I hate is driving in the slow lane.
And my husband likes to slap my ass. I won’t go into it. First,
he bites it.
I feel diminished by modern life. The lifestyle is belittling.
How can I develop an ego? Start by killing a mosquito.
People come to Memphis seeking Elvis. They leave having made
fools of themselves. Elvis did not die in vain.
The train leaves out of Union Station at 3. Get yourself a paper.
The toilets are certain to be broken.
I never wanted anything more than love. That’s why I’ve come.
You’ve come to the wrong place.
She may be rich, but she is bitter. She wants the nurse to wipe
thrice not just once.
If only my mother had been well taken care of. She lived ‘til 93
but could have made it to 105. I’m suing. She died on the way
to the hospital.
I just want love. My lips are luscious. My dick is huge. My nails
are dazzling. My bum is plump. What the fuck is wrong with me.
[David Lohrey is from Memphis, where he grew up, and now lives in Tokyo, where he teaches and writes for local travel magazines. He graduated from UC Berkeley and then moved to LA where he lived for over 20 years.
Internationally, his poetry can be found in Otoliths, Stony Thursday Anthology, Sentinel Quarterly, and Tuck Magazine. In the US, recent poems have appeared in Poetry Circle, FRiGG, Obsidian, and Apogee Journal. His fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Dodging the Rain, and Literally Stories.
David’s The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th-century literature, was published in 2016, while his first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was released in September 2017. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Collective.]
It is the pause
Where I await the echo
To signal that it can beat again…
…that I can breathe again…
… that I can’t…
It is the pause
Haunted by a promise
Where in slow motion
With broken compass
And bloody nails
To find finger-holds
In the grey edge
Of the moment
Frozen in the shattered glass
Of the bauble
That once had
housed the world
Within a world
To moral paste
Beneath the agony of cloven behoves
Which beget the disentangle
© Vicki Wilson
I am an amateur poet, published author and professional technical analyst… all of these things mean I basically solve puzzles for a living, and to keep from dying. I know this because I died once. Metaphorically. Six years of a slow death by industrialised decision making. In the end I was so numb to living I ceased to exist. But burn-out has a silver lining, you wake up and all you have left is steel and the rich black of sticky charcoal to make your mark. I am still learning how to hold a pen, how to form words into a living thing, but my scratchings are mine, they are made with the corpse of who I was. I offer them as evidence I exist.
I have recently published a children’s book – written and illustrated by myself – under the banner of dragonflypublishing. You can find me there writing my next one: https://www.facebook.com/dragonflypublishing.au.