Nathan McCool – Response to Mick Hugh’s Proper Disturbia:

I’m just gonna puke it up. All the worthless
words. The studies that didn’t mean
a fuckin thing. All the ways I was
taught to think. The shitty, remedial
lessons I learned in school
that were so pointless.

“Let’s focus on some boring writing that
says nothing, isn’t worth a damn, and most importantly… was given high praise by people
all conditioned to clamor to the classics
and the worlds of happy endings.”

My A.P. English literature
teacher was always so determined to
analyze what every poem meant.
But only in line with what the textbooks
told her it meant.
Things in my stomach still turn to rot when
I have to breathe in the words of people like that.

Our tiny little advanced placement class,
(Mostly just people who could offer
advanced payments for their A’s)
we were supposed to write our own poem
to be analyzed. A poem that fit some bullshit
rhyme scheme that I didn’t give a shit about.
But I did it anyway, cause I’m a sucker for
making a point.

And at the last minute I wrote a poem
titled “Prayer That Nothing Spills Out”.
And after the clichés and happy endings
and sad attempts to rhyme “good” with “God”, that teacher read my poem out
loud to the whole class.

And they all got to figure it out.
Take their turns at firing off assumptions about
what I really meant. Until it was determined
I wrote about all my internalized emotions
and the hopes that I never showed anyone
how much I suffer.

And when I was asked to explain my poems intent,
I told them. I proved my point about their
shit method of assuming what someone
is trying to say. And then I laughed uncontrollably
until I puked on the floor and walked out.

Because “Prayer That Nothing Spills Out”
was about anal.

 


 

[Nathan McCool is the dark lord over on Instagram at God Of Dregs.]

Staff Picks – David Lohrey

I don’t want the staff to pick for me.

I go to the other side of the store, looking for a good remainder.

I don’t even like getting books for Christmas.

I don’t want anyone to make a selection for me.

I don’t want to wear underwear bought by my mother.

I prefer to cut my own meat.

I don’t want to smoke a cigarette lit by a stranger.

I don’t want to wear a tie that’s been chosen by a friend.

I don’t want to use a fork that’s been in someone else’s mouth.

I can’t share a tooth brush, can you?

I’m like Madonna: if it were up to me, I’d just as soon sit on a brand new toilet.

I’d just as well not flush for you; and whenever I forget, I regret it.

I’d just as well clean up after myself. And I sure as hell don’t want to clean up after you.

I don’t want to smell another man’s breath on my wife, but that’s something else, isn’t it?

I’m sorta funny that way, but I’d prefer not to share my cookies.

I’d just as well leave my leftovers left over, and not picked over.

I like being on my own.

I never liked tearing my sandwich in two, not even for my friend.

I never liked it as a kid when another kid mooched my potato chips.

I’ll take the check, just the same. Thank you kindly.

I don’t want to be alone, but I want to be left alone.

I don’t like it when someone sips my drink or wants to try my dessert.

I couldn’t bear it if my wife ate my ice.

I just don’t trust a man who can’t dress himself. I’m just saying.

I’d prefer to wipe my own nose.

I don’t want anyone to pick things off my plate. I’m like a dog; I snarl.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll get back to work.


 

[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. A book of his poetry, entitled “Machiavelli’s Backyard” is soon to be released.]

Critical Mass – Nathan McCool

There used to be a lake here but
it too is just drained now.  I may have once
been a ghost of water
able to enter and exit places without recognition,
able to touch a mouth and not leave a
taste or a mark – just
the sensation that something has been there
to calm a need.
Some days now I’m more just the spirit
of fire.
A ghost of smoke
A ghost of echoes
A ghost of ghosts
And I could truly be of the same amount
of use. My grass is overgrown.
Hasn’t been cut in weeks and I just
don’t give a damn. All my guitar strings are dead.
My Social Distortion vinyl skips on all my
favorite parts
because that’s where I’ve accidentally placed myself
again.
My fingers pressing in involuntary, pushed
by the weight of all I’ve done and failed to do.
I’m so full of everything. I’ve taken in so much
of what the world has to give, and I’ve
tried to take back so much of what life has
stolen. But sometimes I still can’t feel it.

There used to be a lake here but
it too is just drained now. I break in
in the middle of the night and step right
into its tomb.
This crater overflows with me
and I think maybe nothing and no one
will ever be able to hold all that I am now.

Breath-is-relative-to-time by Aakriti Kuntal

Wind presses against my feet

Crevices are moments too

moments of walking, walking,

running, grinding, running

I dreamt that I’m a treadmill

Life running with her long legs 

Her long legs too long for my retreating skin

You said that time is convoluted

Like a robin in frenzy, scissors binding skin

You said, across floating dreamless states

of my rotating head, you said that time 

is a disaster, that everything is already washed

Blank white, crepe folding in fingers, 

fingers outrunning air, always trying to grasp at inevitability 

You said with cerulean lips, diamonds engulfing skies

amidst shores of blue, sparkling blue, sitting inside a stray boat,

humming inside grand oceans

You said that all life is just a long heavy breath

Go slow


Aakriti Kuntal is a 24-year-old emerging poetess from the country of veritable colors and stratified rainbows, India. A Network Engineer by profession she has been writing for over a year now. She enjoys nature, music, all things geeky and all things art.

Aakriti writes for the Writings of Aakriti Kuntal, and her work has been published in 1947 Literary Journal, Duane’s PoeTree blog, Visual Verse and Indian Periodical among others.

‘ This mess we’re in ‘ – Collaborative – S.K. Nicholas & Samantha Lucero

 

   the lights are always on now, no one ever sleeps.

   i am one of those dreamless alien lights; one of those nobody’s cradled in the teeth of a high-rise window. my building’s a fang that pierces an eye of god. i loved you more because you turned away from me.

   i stare at my reflection until i become the memory of you; until i am become death and stones in pockets, and the formless outside in the velvet dark. you, the ghost that rushes in the corner of my eye, the reason i wear lace when it rains. i’m trying to read your mind, wherever it’s gone, but i can’t. i try to unearth the sandalwood smear of you on my walls and in between my fingers, but you’re not there. i’m not there either, not anymore.

   and so i’ll go to the hudson where they sell fire for your throat when you can’t weep or scream, where there’s bad news in the laughter and they find you floating the morning after.

   this mess we’re in will be over before it can begin.

   With a rock in my hand, I lay you down and taste the sweetness of your lips. I make you pretty and breathe in a scent that tickles me just right. With my fingers around your throat, I squeeze them tight and tell you that I want so much to believe. Among a bed of roses in a part of town others have no need to tread, I watch over you as the sun is replaced by the milk-white moon that makes you look like a porcelain doll my sister used to own. You, my beautiful secret. You, my only regret. You, the only one who knows me for how I am. Sit with me a while and hear my reasons. Give me a little time to tell you how this came to be. Speak some truth to heal these sins. Say something that will ease our passage to a place we were never meant to resist.

   With a rock in my hand, you move with such speed. Like a cat, you twist and turn as I stumble trying so hard to make it known that despite my deeds, I am indeed a good man. But the more you fight against it, the harder it is. The more you move away the closer I come until the only way I can make you understand is for you to see a part of me I try so hard to hide. Hitching up your skirt and sliding down those tights, I smear your lipstick and kiss your throat. Touching you where I feel God the most, I whisper to you knowing there will be no answer. Pulling your hair and sinking my fingers into the ground beneath your head, I hear no birds. I sense no movement at all as the world we used to know turns without us.

   This mess we’re in will be over before we know it.

   i could be the smooth arms of angrboda.

   i could hunt the heat lost in you somewhere like a tremble of life, find the skeleton key that unlocks all locked doors. i could keep one dying secret down in flames. i could birth in kerosene the chained wolf-child, your half-dead maid, an immense snake that cradles the sea. we could be the myth. we could be the end, for fragments like us to fit in life’s hands, full of dirt.

   i’m spit miscarried on grass, i’m all the things i thought, except the thing i could’ve been. i’m lost in my head, and you want me here. swallowing all six red seeds, I still starve in spring. i like it in the dark, with you believing, and you want me to believe in good men, when they would bury vestals alone with a lamp. leave me on a road that i can hitch hike to hell on and think, think… !

   think about a time in red converse. stepping on your toes just to get a close up, listen low so no one else can hear, fuck them, late night in a leather jacket and a pin with a gold tooth and vampire fangs. warning label. 2 packs of american spirits until we’re dry, and anne boelyn’s ghost in the tower of london. a grin of blood they never found on the wall. hell can be real. it’s here; but your face in my hands, watching me cry, that’s worth it.

   “time is a flat circle.”

   if we have one moment that matters,

   this mess we’re in can happen over and over again.

   With a rock in my hand, I use the other to cradle the base of your skull. You used to be my woman. You used to be my girl, but you just wouldn’t be tamed. I never wanted to clip your wings. No, I never wished to see you like that at all, but you never gave me a choice. I could’ve been your man, could’ve been that someone to watch over you when you needed a friend. I was here to give you all of this, yet you went a different way. You gave yourself to those who know only how to betray. It should never have come to this, but what was I supposed to do? Just allow it? Just let you fall further from grace? I’m not a monster, I’m a poet, and all I ever wanted was for you to know it. It was your choice to make.

   With a rock in my hand, I dig the soil with the other. You speak to me but it’s too late. I’ve made up my mind. And yet this isn’t the end. You are the seed that shall be planted. You are the nucleus of what I shall become. You will be mother and lover, and as I lay you down and watch you grow, the past and the future are already dancing on the same page. You have this voice but it needs to be silenced so I can hear what you have to say. You have this beauty but I need to cover it because others will surely come and attempt to sniff you out yet again. Y’know, I’ve never been this open with anyone but you. Never had the chance to be so close. It’s not how you wanted it, I’m sure, but with time you will understand, I can feel it in my bones.

   This mess we’re in gives birth to everything.


S.K. Nicholas is the man at a haunted hotel, alone on a snowy night, trying not to have a drink at My Red Abyss, and Samantha Lucero is the crumbling, lone grave on a hill poking out like a little rotten tooth at Six Red Seeds. ]

 

Guest Blogger: Sook Samsara, “Driving into the Sun”

Driving into the sun
Hands over my eyes like a child
Afraid of the future’s big face in mine
Playing games of peekaboo and scream
Natural causes working always incorrigibly behind the scenes
Bringing knees to concrete
Staining out the colour in my cheeks like mum’s washed jeans
Feeling the movement of the bitumen under me
Measuring time by how the white lines merge to one
Life recapitulates death
Recapitulates life
And again
There’s no such thing as time
Just the body falling back to dust
Eating itself alive
The best bits first and then hungrily the crust
Inner mechanisms causing scabs of ugly rust
In the destruction of husked cells
The days have gone quick
—I guess I binged on them too


 

[My name is Sook Samsara and I’m an icon of the universe. I reside in the year 2017 within the confines of the Australian continent. If anyone cares to find me they can look into the darkest part of their shadow, the part that’s cast in the middle of the night when you’re standing under the bathroom’s halogen after waking up from a dream of falling. You can talk to me there. I am a man and the hourglass has already been turned. I am aging without grace or respect. I have never managed to successfully escape the demon’s that rely on me like useless friends. I am worthy of love but have just temporarily forgotten why. I write poems and upload them to https://koalabeartea.wordpress.com When I’m not writing who am I? Just another scared boy.]

Husk – Howl Davies

I’ve got one hour until my parents are back from the theater.

I’m at my typically cluttered desk. Textbooks and notes bathed in the glow from a budget mass produced lamp, designed especially to fit the Swedish specifications of a stylish and productive student workspace.

There are only two things on my desk which are important right now. On the table is a photograph of me and my best friend, Hugh. It was taken a couple of years back. A school excursion, the typical outdoors experience that’s supposed to build character. It was a weekend of early mornings and shitty experiences, but we made the most of it. Hell, we made it fun.

To my left is a small plastic bag, containing a coarse white powder. Give it to a pharmacist or a chemist and they’ll identify it as ‘Desomorphine’. Show it to a kid my age, or a junkie down on their luck and they’ll tell you you’ve got a cheap shipment of Husk. It’s a drug that appealed to the latter for a few years. It was an alternative to heroin, but a tenth of the cost. There was a reason for this. You had your typical long term side effects; heart palpitations, stunted brain cell development, rabid gum disease, but that’s to be expected.

Husk had a much more obvious and worrying long term effect. Necrosis of the skin.

You can probably begin to imagine it, but I can tell you, it’s worse than that. It’s like a section of your body doesn’t get the memo that your heart is still beating and it just – gives up. It rots. The skin falls away and reveals the blighted muscle tissue and discolored bone that the drug has got to and ruined. Deploy. Discover. Destroy. The drug follows every teaching of our founding fathers. So, you’re left with these stinking, rotting masses of flesh hanging off your body.

It’s unpleasant;

                                    but I have no intention of getting to that point.

Another way the drug differs from typical opiates is the overdose. Take too much heroin for your little heart to handle and it’ll just give up on you. Boom. Time’s up. Husk won’t kill you however. It’ll just – change you. Reduce you to a blabbering fool for the rest of your life. Motor skills, language ability, sense of reasoning – out the window. You’ll be lucky if you can even pronounce your own name at the end of it. You’ll be reduced to the equivalent of an adult new born. A shell of your former self. Hence the name – Husk.

All this didn’t deter the most desperate people looking for a fix. It got big in the darker corners of Europe, and then made its way over to America. The authorities and the DEA didn’t pay it much attention until it started making its way into high schools. As soon as it threatened the suburban middle class, they mustered up a crusade to stop the blight, because someone just has to think of the children. Well, the privileged ones. I’m saying this as someone from that world. My father’s a doctor, my mother a lawyer. They own their own house. I am the very embodiment of my own cynicisms.

So why do I have the drug? Well, I’m not looking for a fix, and I’ve never had an interest in getting high. I tease the picture of me and Hugh in my fingers.

He overdosed on Husk six weeks ago.

When I found out, well there’s little that can prepare you for that. I knew him better than anyone, and I knew it wasn’t an accident. He was a smart guy. One of the smartest people I’d ever met. He had been accepted into his first three colleges of choice. He was going to be a doctor, and a good one at that.

He wasn’t the first to overdose at my school, and he wasn’t the last. These weren’t copycat actions, and these weren’t the actions of followers.

Daisy Thompson – she was published in several student literary collectives – she overdosed eight weeks ago, the night before receiving the school’s English prize.

Paul Erikkson – he could have got a sporting scholarship to any college of his choosing – he overdosed five weeks ago, nine days before he was set to go to an invite only football training camp.

Holly Davies – I sat behind her in my further mathematics class and she overdosed just six days ago. She wasn’t that special. She was just always nearby.

The brightest minds, the most charismatic and prosperous individuals were dropping like flies. This wasn’t suicide, but it was their escape. I didn’t want to believe it, but you can’t just ignore a correlation like that. They all had a lot ahead of them, but sometimes you got to think, is that what they really wanted? We’re barely learning to think for ourselves, and we’re already sizing up the mountain we are going to have to climb for the rest of our life.

I understand why they did it. I wouldn’t have bought the drug if I didn’t.

Being constantly told what you’re going to amount to, being reminded about your bright future, it’s merely a constant reminder that you have expectations to fulfil. It’s hard to be happy when you’re constantly measuring your next step, as well as the distance of the fall if you miss it.

Human nature is simple; we just want to be happy.

I mean real happiness. Not the fleeting kind we get day to day – going shopping, watching a film you like, watching people you’ve never met win at a sport you’ve never played – this isn’t that. These little anomalies of content will always be tarnished by the next little dilemma to come along.

I mean pure, unadulterated, unconditional happiness.

The kind I saw last week, in Hugh’s face.

He was sat in the cafeteria, spooning yoghurt out a bowl with one hand and throwing it onto the floor, his other hand playing with his genitals. People don’t die when they take husk – this was the equivalent of an adult new born.

Never in my ten years of knowing him had I ever seen him laugh so hard, or seen him as care free as he was that lunchtime, painting his strawberry flavored masterpiece with his dick in his hand.

He was painting his Sistine chapel. I doubt Michelangelo ever looked that happy.

He doesn’t even recognize me anymore, but that doesn’t change a thing for him.

Maybe the first was an accident. Allen Jones – he always had troubles with what he was going to do after high school. He didn’t have the grades to go where he wanted, and I guess he just wanted a release. When he came back to school – well it was strange to see. Always smiling, always content, always at peace. He used to have panic attacks like clockwork. Now he just sits around sticking the pages of books together with glue. Every single kid in that school, from the honor students to the kids who’d huff solvents in the toilets after school, every single one is the middle child of history. There’s no more American dream to strive for, and the concept of correcting the instabilities left by it is too far off.

We are just filler. We are the commercials for European sports-cars and male impotency medication that crawls through the early morning television schedule.

When you think of it like that, I’m not surprised all the kids did it, and I’m not surprised Hugh did it. He was setting out to spend half of his life in med school, and then the other half to follow would be there to pay it off. You don’t get a break in this world. The only time when you aren’t plagued by responsibility is as an infant, or when you finally cash in your twilight years, slowly dying but out of your mind on medication.

The years of med school cramming and bills was just one aspect for Hugh though. There are other reasons people take Husk. Not just to escape, but also to forget. Not just to forget, but to purge something from ever happening.

Take Marla Parker – sure she wasn’t the brightest kid at school, but then she had a gift more important in high school – she was hot, and her tits came in early. She was attractive, and this made her noticeable. Popular. This is what made her instance so tragic.

It’s always worse hearing a tragedy about someone who’s attractive.

Do you think people would have given a shit about Jesus if he was ugly?

Marla was on a lot of the guy’s radars at high school, and she knew it. She liked it. Like Icarus in a C cup, she got pregnant a month or so into this whole ‘Husk’ pandemic. Not many knew at first, just those involved. Marla was someone I would never go near. Hugh, on the other hand, was crazy about her. Things worked out for them at Diiasio’s birthday party. Hugh was beaming for two weeks afterwards.

Until Hugh found out that Marla was pregnant.

I don’t think that’s why Hugh took the husk though. I explained to him the slim chance that the kid was his. He seemed uneasy when I worked out how many people he was competing with for that ‘World’s #1 Dad’ mug. It did slim down the prospects though. As I said, Icarus in a C cup.

I don’t think it was Marla’s pregnancy that made Hugh decide to overdose.

I don’t think it was Marla telling him that her ‘super Catholic’ parents nearly kicked her out the house and forbid her from getting the abortion that made him do it.

I don’t think it was hearing about how they found Marla in her parents’ home, foaming at the mouth from a near lethal dose of Husk that made him do it.

I don’t think it was about them rushing her to the hospital. Her blood-soaked thighs that made him do it.

I don’t think it was the visits, seeing her a few weeks after that with the mentality of an infant and no recollection of the life she traded in, nor the child she lost.

I don’t think there’s any one reason why Hugh, why these kids, why we are doing this. It’s the weight of it all combined that breaks our back.

I’m not trying to say what these kids did, what I intend to do, is right. I don’t need to justify my actions.

It’s just easier –

                                    And things seldom come easily.

 I’m pinching the bag in between my forearm and thumb, and looking at the picture of Hugh. He’s never coming back, so I may as well join him.

The substance should be dissolved in water. I’d seen it a million times in films. I never thought I’d be at this point, but hell, life’s full of surprises like this.

I’m holding a lighter under a spoon with water and the husk. Too much for a first-time user. Enough to overdose on. What I didn’t understand from when I saw this in films is that when you’re doing it for real, it’s a much slower process. I flick on the television I have next to my desk. The news flashes on the screen and they’re showing a report on Husk. It’s strange to watch it whilst I’m dissolving a fix in one of my parent’s silver spoons. These anti-husk reports are on every couple of days.

But, this isn’t that.

It’s live footage, from an airport. I let go of the gas compression on the lighter and move closer.

The whole airport is in lockdown. Apparently, there’s a kid – he’s locked himself in one of the bathrooms, and he’s threatening to overdose.

His uncle is there outside the bathroom, distraught, begging the kid to come out. There are passengers, pilots, baggage staff, air hosts and hostess’, all watching. All waiting. Every single close-up shot of the crowd reveals a face heavy with empathy. The reporter is talking to a woman slumped on a chair, crying. I assume it’s the kid’s mother, but it isn’t. The woman chokes out that her daughter overdosed a couple of months ago, and then she creases in on herself, crying frantically.

There isn’t a single shot of the crowd where there isn’t someone as distraught as this.

There isn’t a single shot which doesn’t have someone who’s whole life was torn apart by this drug.

The reporter is rushing over to the airport bathroom. The kid came out. He didn’t do it. He’s crying. He’s shaking. His uncle rushes over and hugs him.

And everyone’s clapping for this kid. They’re smiling through tears.

How must this feel for those whose kids went through it?

I can’t even begin to imagine, and the logical step would be to think about my parents. For them to come home and I’ve –

I can’t even think about it.

I throw the spoon in the bin, the lighter, the bag, the syringe. Everything.

I pick up the picture of Hugh again. I look at his goofy smile.

After the overdose, he can’t use a mobile phone. I doubt he’ll ever wrap his head around it again.

I reach over to my phone and address a text to him. I tell him he’s an idiot, and then I tell him I miss him.


 

An uplifting story for Friday!

[Howl Davies is the spectral puppet master crawling in The Sounds inside.]