It was Saturday night. Friday, I’d got out of rehab. Someone called me and said did I want to go to a meeting of sex addicts. Probably be full of men who’re addicted to internet porn I thought.
“Sure,” I said; what else was I going to do. “Will there be girls there?”
It was being held in the basement of some church in Islington. I was sitting in the back row watching the girl in front of me touching her neck. There were young, old, women, men. Someone lit a couple of candles and set them on a low table in the centre.
“Lights,” said a voice from the front.
The crypt was darkened; some people kept talking, finishing their conversations in low voices.
The secretary spoke up: “We’re very lucky to have Roy here who’s agreed to share his experience, strength and hope with us for about 10-15 minutes, at which time I’ll open the meeting for general sharing. So, Roy, I’ll hand the meeting over to you …”
Roy said thanks. I looked over the heads to see him. He was tall and thin and bald. It was hard to tell his age in the half-light.
The door closed 3 days ago and it hasn’t opened again. I have had 16 diet cokes and I chew gum like crazy. I have a thermometer and I take my temperature, write it on a bit of paper and push it under the door for them.
I have seen other people doing this and they get hundreds of followers. They post pictures of their food but I don’t have a camera with me. I ate spaghetti bolognese with that pre-powdered parmesan that is sandy and coats your tongue.
There is a man I can see from my window and he tidies outside. He doesn’t look at me ever so I watch him and watch him. He has beautiful shiny black hair and the label sticks out the back of his shirt.Continue reading “Twitter Famous, by Cleo Henry”→
“Hello I’m Anthony, I’m an artist” something broke behind his eyes and several invisible walls swung themselves up between him and everything.
Exhilirating sterility. He stared at her five whole minutes without looking at her chest. At the end of their conversation they both looked at each other in mutual tacit acknowledgment of the fact then in acknowledgment of the acknowledgment broke away. He felt so strong. He considered all the viruses he had and felt they’d raised him more than the TV. His gut was filled with fire and he went to the bathroom and hit himself in the face bleeding and staring numbly at a half angle in the edge of the cubicle considering how his vision hit it so it intersected at 3 angles, really felt all 3 dimensions operating. Numbly he probed at his teeth with a tongue and considered his haircut – it worried him. Sideburns weren’t fleshed out enough – he’d always had weak facial hair, but he wasn’t willing to just shave them off. He kicked at the side of the toilet which caved in and water spilled over his shoes, then he climbed out the window and left. It was 3 AM then and the air was abuzz with primordial loneliness like you might feel outside an industrial freezer or inside the bowels of an airliner: Somewhere manmade where man no longer was meant to be & which as a result became rarefied space, something like a temple – consecrated to what? If Anthony were capable of having God, that would be it: The God of Modernity, God of the object-besotted white man – man overwhelmed by his making which worked itself through him to crushing excess and which process itself was the worship and products the God. Work is worship. A thing became as much a part of you by your making it as vice-versa. Anthony felt looking was a making but he didn’t know where he begun or ended but despite this he felt alone, not lonely, and complete in himself which was several things. He felt an invisible planet or void around which these things orbit and which in turn orbited round each other and from which orbits things left and into which things entered, and the planet-void he only knew was moving by its deformation, by the changing of the orbits, the sensation of a deformation apart from any reference frame. Could not tell whether it caused or was caused by the orbits. Although it was the centre, and these things were not contradictory. Anthony thought dimension only made sense in terms of relation like how could you tell where a thing was except with reference to some other thing and probably that space existed so that things could find ways to relate to each other anew and he split himself into a million pieces so they all could have 999,999 friends. Continue reading “LIFE IS LIKE SOMEBODY HOLDING MY FACE TO AN ANGLE GRINDER, by spigot”→
She spins her red thread, and it twists into shapes before her eyes, hearts and nooses. It tells her that Theseus turns out to be an asshole.
Seven young men and seven maidens arrive on the island, and Theseus outshines them all. His eyes are the sky blue of someone who believes he cannot fail, who believes he has no darkness within him. Those eyes make Ariadne dream of flight.
Theseus wonders how such a creature as the minotaur, half-beast, half-man, could be allowed to exist. Ariadne doesn’t tell him the last of the halves: the monster is her half-brother. In the evening she dreams of blue eyes, but her hands twist and turn the red thread. At midnight she dreams of mazes like arteries and veins, running red and blue.
Ariadne gives Theseus a coiled ball of thread the size of a heart. She tells him the thread will guide him out of the labyrinth.
“The poem surpasses the other literary arts in every way: in its depth, potency, bitterness, beauty, as well as its ability to unsettle us.” Jón Kalman Stefánsson
Unsettlement is a recurring theme in Tony Messenger’s debut collection ‘poems to be found in the desert’. Colonial unsettlement, traversing an uncomfortable environment,
d i s l o c a t i o n and the blurred lines of imaginary \\\borders///. \\\Boundaries/// & limits that appear, settle and dissolve.
This conflicting duality works to unsettle the reader, forcing them to ???question??? their place in the vast Australian →landscape←, an environment where nothing seems as it appears.
The epigraph for the opening section of poems comes from Ely Williams “I find that out in the desert my words wander too because here thoughts and words are things unleashed.” A warning that the collection is peppered with thoughts and words unleashed, a cryptic murmuring, a maze of ideas that circle, repeat, fade and reform. It is easy to become lost in this text, thinking you’ve already experienced an image, but a refresh and a re-read show slight differences, an erosion, a morphing of concepts.
This is the desert where the obvious is not so obvious.
The collection opens with the poem “longifolius” (the scientific name for the spiky spinifex grass that is abundant in the central deserts). The poem can be viewed as a metaphor for Australia itself. The grass grows in a ◌circular◌ clump, and as it ages its shape becomes nest like, with the centre ►dying◄ off as the grass uses all the available nutrients in the soil, the newer stems sprouting on the outside forming ◌concentric◌ patterns. The inner “►dead zone◄” is a haven for ants, who feed on the ⸙seeds⸙, and reptiles and birds, who feed off the ants. Hence the ◌circular◌ shape of the poem. Something that may appear barren is in fact teeming with life. Look to the centre not as an ⸔inhospitable⸕ place, look for details, enquire with a local pair of eyes.
You and I, we should go to the tar pits. Let’s stare at what was once life. We’ll inch closer together, becoming one creature, an unconscious attempt to metastasize in the face of ancient grandeur. I’ll wonder if they – the mastodons – ever thought about the end of the world. You and I do, all the time, but alone. Doomsday would take on the lure of a sunset if we endured it together, I’m convinced.
A conversation I sometimes imagine begins:
I’m so glad you take care of yourself. My father died when he was younger than you.
More staring at life.
I’m so sorry, you’ll say. Doesn’t everyone start there? But you’ll mean it, understand it, because,
. . . something about a man and his dog (in the grand, non-linear scheme of reincarnation) as being one in the same. Soul, that is. Ethereal transient dweller, is another. Here now, there they are: Situated between two distinct, bloody meat husks, between two separate states of existent being — at once, under one roof, simultaneously — with one foot in man, the other, a dachshund-terrier mix.
. . . is comprised of both end and endless, singular and infinite, of omniscient oblivion, bright-dark heavy-light, of both shape and void, each with their own distinct name. As a man: Brandon. In dog form, she is Mocha, among countless others (i.e., Mochi, Mookie, Monkey, Chunky, Chubbers, Chunkmonster. . . ). As mutual entity, root identity, as timeless core incarnate, a loose translation: Daielaareux.
. . . will spend seven months at the shelter, gone unadopted longer than any other dog, before rejoining herself again. Meanwhile, she cries her jaw off. Starves herself down to a coffee-boned silhouette. Even draws blood from the hand of a guileless child, to make clear the message: I will never be yours. She waits patiently for what she already knows will eventually be.
. . . remembers what, on pure impulse, will drive him to the shelter in this manic grasping for purpose, going on six days without medication. He will come upon himself, caged separate. His ovaries scooped clean. Groggy with shots to keep him quiet, stagnant, alive. Not even finding himself to be particularly cute, or unique, or enthralling, yet feeling instantly connected, just the same. Might he’ve recognized then, in those muted eyes, himself? She knows the next years ahead of them together will be nothing so glorious — that they are in no way ready or responsible enough to take adequate care of themselves. They will ingest things that will make them violently ill. They will be too poor, too careless, to seek medical help. Will endure vast chunks of boredom, chewing holes through themselves, incapable to leave the house. Will watch themselves from the foot of the bed sulk and rot away for days on end, treading the grey wash of their skull, directionless, besides down. Will be the only life force to keep them afloat, strong enough to pull themselves upwards, and eventually, out.
. . . yanks on their leash in unruly directions, and, out of sheer spite, he tugs them back the opposite way. Each will struggle to tell themselves what to do. He instructs her to obey: Sit. Heel. Eat. Fetch. Up on the couch. Now, off. But she refuses to listen. Years later, their heart crushed by a lasting love, lost — the one who used to (she now learns) smack them in private, but still loves her, despite the abuse — two months out, having still not washed the pillows or sheets, incubated with the tortuous scent of their ex’s shampoo, she has no other choice than to piss on the bed. She instructs him to: Be calm. Go for a walk. Know your self-worth. Move on. But he refuses to listen. He tells himself: No. He calls herself: Bad girl. They scream as themselves: Shut up shut up shut up.
. . . Daielaareux, in countless other forms: A bridge in New Zealand. A strip mall in Detroit. An unbuttered croissant. A great big pile of leaves. A spanned lineage of prehistoric, neon-colored crabs. A comfortable silence. An impossible dream. The 37th Annual Miss America pageant. A one-hit wonder. An impotent king. A fortuitous accident, recognized only in hindsight. The Divine Mouth taking the earth like a vitamin. A newborn horse’s first step. Another one biting the dust.
. . . forever amounts to, returns back to, self-love.
. . . just seconds before the New Year, 2018. Time hibernates. Thoughts shuffle like a deck of cards. Head loud. Skull turned inside out on psychedelics. A blubbery, sunken, self-contained mess of fleshy slop packed inside a transient shell. A dark stain on the carpet, on a mother’s pelvic floor. He rushes to the bathroom, convinced an empty bladder will cure him. It does, then doesn’t. Grime sits in every wrinkle. Gravity’s tandem held hand lets go. The universe’s veil pulled down like a shower curtain, their many forms spilling out over the linoleum floor. On their knees, hands, back, she perches on his chest and he catches it — a quick glimpse, the uncanny resemblance, atoms stacked like dodged shoved in a cage. He holds herself behind the ears, kisses himself on their wet, hot stinking teeth. Noticing it fully, this tethering between them — an ethereal cord, conjoined. He she they them are all was once will have had we become continuous as one day slips seamlessly into the next without a clock, as the crackling bursts of fireworks resound from outside, at last. They have made it, for now.
. . . in the same windowed timeline, will cease just as abruptly as its start: The man, at the tender age of fifty-six, from an untreated pulmonary obstruction; as a dog, age nine, a pack of stale Oreos left accessible at the top of the trash. And yet, both still remain incapable of saving each other, themselves, from what must be in order to happen again.
Stephen Wack is an Atlanta-based writer. He earned an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience from the University of Georgia, where he briefly interned at the college’s literary magazine, The Georgia Review. His work has previously appeared in Five:2:One, Rougarou, and Cleaver Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Hunger and New Flash Fiction Review.
Noon was first a shadowless lull in the byscape; a sudden, sunlit evenness now and then heightened by the silence of the cricketry, the dulling of the earliest birds. The woodland as a whole came to a halt at once, without a screech, as if it were of one mind in an incomputable amount of bodies the business of which was to multicull and culliply each other across time and worlds into complete transfiguration. It was rare, given this atmosphere, for even leaves to have to hold their breath, especially if –at least on land— this was an age of predators Continue reading “Welcome to the Fold by Mónica Belevan”→
“How did you let that happen? Never mind, bring me the ashes.”
The deacon dutifully brought the marble jar before scurrying away to hide behind the altar’s red velvet throne. Father Orson pulled off the heavy lid to survey the contents before tucking the jar under his arm like a slaughter hog. Continue reading “Intinction by Amy Barnes”→
1. All performers conduct a different hygiene routine: floss, clip toenails, wash hands, put on deodorant, shave, pluck eyebrows, etc. They may trade routines in a fugue-like pattern if they wish. Their tempo should correspond to the movements of a symphony.
Maybe I can calculate my way out of it? Terminal velocity, 54 m/s, @ 37,000 feet, which gives me about two and half minutes (not exactly, but considering, that’ll do). To do what? Think of a way out? Go over every detail and see if I could’ve done it better? Reassess my life via Nairobi, South B Hospital, seven and a half pounds, small bassinet in the corner of a mud-brick home, loving mother and father, primary school, high school, and Mrs Otieno telling Mama the boy’s some sort of mathematical genius. Straight to my Continue reading “First Thought by Stephen Orr”→
She said her name was Billie. Her mama called her Billie-Jean when she called her anything at all. At fourteen she was all angles and knees and steel-blue eyes. We sat in the doorway of my 1970’s shit-brown RV, the orange shag rug faded to something between mustard and burnt sienna. Dirt had settled so deeply into it that it was hard to tell the difference between the ground and floor. Continue reading “The Tao of “Howl” by KB Baltz”→
TECH NOTES: Room 2 – 6.17.2015 EMR #1421 – DOB 12.25.1981 JASMINE “JAZZ” ABRAHAM
PATIENT at lab tonight for a nocturnal polysomnographic assessment (NPSG) following complaints of excessive daytime sleepiness. Ordering physician will review data before ordering nap tests to rule out sleep disordered breathing as primary diagnosis.
PATIENT arrives noticeably sleepy. During 10/20 procedure, conversation lulls are induced by frequent microsleeps, but PATIENT is easily aroused.
The transparent eyelids of Los Angeles. The whole show of human sense … celestial mechanics suddenly unemployed … language makers with superior intellect … everyday sexual occurrences inside the supermarket … secret visions stymied by the cerebral systems … an endless sky … dead arms flay about in a great storm … the feint flash of a sticky … heavy rain. My ghastly face … these hots days … these telegraph wires … this Continue reading “CERTAIN MOTELS / MOTEL SOFA by Shane Jesse Christmass”→