Last Days of the Cross by Joseph Ridgwell

(excerpt from his novel available at Grievous Jones Press)

I walked along Roslyn Street and up into the main drag. There were two supermarkets nearby, Riteway and Coles. Coles was the larger food emporium but its prices were notably higher than Riteway.

As I stood on the corner of Roslyn and Darlinghurst trying to make up my mind which one to go to, impatient shoppers barged past, forcing me out of the way. And then I saw her. I saw her for the very first time. Rosie. Although back then, I didn’t know her name. She was a face in the crowd but not just any face. No, she stood out like a shimmering vision and everyone and everything became part of a blurred, grainy backdrop as soon as she hove into view.

She was a young Aboriginal girl with long legs and mad hair, dressed like a hooker - tight mini-skirt, torn fishnet stockings and a low cut tee-shirt. She was walking fast, pushing people out of the way, like she was on a mission. I decided to follow her. I don’t know why - it was just an impulse - an overwhelming urge. I crossed to the other side of the road and ran along the main drag. I wanted to see her face again, just to check I wasn’t imagining things.

Soon I was well ahead. I stopped outside a strip-club and struck a casual pose. Within seconds the strange girl was in sight and no, I hadn’t been imagining things. She was the most stunning girl I’d ever seen; not classically beautiful but oddly beautiful, quirky. She had blonde highlights in her crazy hair and was sporting an over-sized plastic necklace around her scrawny but elegant neck. Her skin was honey coloured and her eyes were blue. It was the eyes that did it. They were so brightly blue. Almost unnatural. I took a deep breath. Within seconds she had swept past me but I kept an eye on her until she disappeared out of sight. Then I pulled a notepad from my shirt pocket and wrote down a quick description.

Another subject for my poetry, I ruminated, another muse - the teenage aboriginal smack head with the blue eyes. I could easily write a thousand poems about that one girl. Fifty on the eyes, alone!

Mixed Couple on the Morning Train by Donal Mahoney

Chicago, 2009

Because he works in an office and is white
and because she who tans anyway has just
returned from a week at the Beach,
the commuters are certain she’s not black
yet they rustle in their seats.

They want to see her hands flick.
They want to see if rivers run dark
through ivory palms.

Martin may be dead
and Obama may have won
but in Chicago this morning at dawn
a rainbow of people
still rustle in their seats.

smuggling sweat socks by Karl Koweski

I was eleven years old
first time I decided
I might be a little
too short in the pants
to interest the ladies

I remember looking down
the front of my
stone-washed jeans
and thinking
there needs to be
a much bigger bulge
happening there

with my mother
shouting at me to quit
posing in the mirror
and get ready to go
I grabbed some
balled up sweat socks
and shoved them
down my pants

I entered that goddamn mall
like the patron saint of porn stars
never has an eleven year-old
the way I swaggered that day

I didn’t have
a cent in my pocket
but I had
an oddly spherical
bulge in my pants

I almost managed
to curve my spine
in on itself
in order for my groin
to arrive at Kaybee Toys
three seconds
before the rest of me

I tipped a wink
and snap/pointed
at the counter girl
who regarded me
with befuddlement
tinged with
what I could only hope to be
sexual curiosity

surveying the action figures
I readjusted the bulge
every three seconds
perhaps the fortieth time
I handled my junk
I shifted the bulge
too far to the left
and the sweatsocks
began the slow descent
down my pant leg

“can I help you?”
the clerk asked
more suspicious than
sexually curious
as though she
intuitively grasped
that not only was
I a penile fraud
but a lowly
sneak thief as well

“model cars,” I mumbled
“where are they?”

“next aisle over”

she stood there
waiting for me
to make my move,
her eyes flickering
to the impressive bulge
at my thigh

I knew taking a step
would only increase
the socks’ rate of descent
but I saw no other

by the time
I stepped around the clerk
my knee was twice
its normal size

something about my
sweaty, furtive demeanor
prompted the clerk
to follow me to
the rack of Testor paint
at which point
my knee was fine and
my ankle had swollen

she couldn’t take her eyes
off me and I couldn’t
take my eyes off the models
as the balled up socks
popped out of my pant leg

perhaps she didn’t notice

as subtly as possible
I kicked the
incriminating evidence
away from me

the socks rolled,
stopping at the clerk’s feet

“excuse me” she said
“you dropped your socks”

“those ain’t my socks
I’m wearing mine”

I lifted up a pant leg
to show her socks
nearly identical except
for the colored stripes

“those socks were there
when I came down the aisle”
I added as I ducked
passed her and streaked
out the store into the mall
to find my mother

swagger gone forever,
convinced the clerk
was even now
conspiring to tell
my mother everything

Addition by Colin Dardis

I am doomed:
I fear I shall never collect
my bouquet of flowers from the printers;
will take two thousand milligrams of ibuprofen,
aspirin, co-codamol,
paracetamol, whatever,
for the rest of my life
measured against
a few select units of
whiskey, wine and water;
add to this the ever-upward spiral
of fun-time prescriptions
to stave off the depression.

And what can I do?
Spike my hair
and get creative with my facial fur;
drink one litre of milk a day
and fret over kidney stones;
eat the wrong foods
and lament my navel;
remember that there is
some good in the world
and that one should strive
to add to this.

Death remains
rattling in His cell
for another day, at least.

Igor flagged me by Anna Donovan

Igor flagged me
on the corner of Kelly
and Timberglen,
said something
about the creature
or was it a church?
or the creature
and a church?

I wondered
if the creature
had converted,
if the church
down the street
had high level meetings
to confirm him
in possession of a soul.

The creature
would be a money maker
in any denomination,
an occasion
for the faithful
to leave behind their
torches and pitchforks
and bring hefty donations.

Maybe the creature
is their God sent
or maybe Igor
knows something
I don't,
maybe they keep
the creature
in chains
and only air him out
on weekends
in his Sunday best.

It is a big church,
room enough
for many dungeons
in there,
and the women do
have a hungry
look about them.

A Nice Way To Spend A Saturday Night by Mike Meraz

A girl calls me up, who I met last weekend, telling me she is at a payphone on the corner
of Atlantic and Washington. She says, "you said to call you this weekend." I think to
myself, "what did I do?" Trying to be sensitive, I ask her, "can you call me later? I’m
doing something right now." She says, "I'll call you when I get to my sisters house."

It was a lonely Saturday night. I was at a 7-Eleven buying beer and a hot dog when I
noticed a girl staring at me. She was kinda cute. Latin. Big breasts. You know. I smiled.
She smiled back. It was all harmless. On our way out we crossed paths and I motioned
her over. She said she just got back from a friends house and that she was so depressed
she wanted to buy some cookie dough. I said, "what's the problem?" She said, "oh
nothing." I asked her if she wanted to go somewhere and talk about it and have coffee.
She said, "it's too late for coffee." I said, "how about some milk?" She laughed and said,
"okay." We drove over to the donut shop across the street and had some milk. We sat for
hours. Talked about our families, what kind of music we liked, etc. We actually held
hands at one point. It was nice. But I think I made a mistake. She is not as shallow as I
am. To her holding hands and talking intimately means the start of something special. To
me it means holding hands, the softness of skin, a nice way to spend a Saturday night.

Blue by Joseph Hargraves

her lover Kathy
and I are excited:
the heroin
we just bought
is rumored
to be excellent.
Kathy sits on the floor
snorting hers,
I inject Caroline
with the stuff.
Pulling a belt tight
around my arm,
I notice
Caroline's head
"She's turning blue,
we'd better call an ambulance,"
Kathy says.
I look:
I've never seen
lips that color.
I think:
"Thank God the dope's good,"
stick the needle's point
into my vein,
feel the warmth
of the drug,
the syringe.
Caroline falls off the chair.
"Give her mouth to mouth,"
I say.
"I don't know how,"
Kathy answers,
snorts another line.
I'm lucky
to be so high,
I try to remember
C.P.R. films,
place my lips
over Caroline's,
breathe into her.
It isn't working.
I pick her up,
tell Kathy
I need help.
She says,
"You're blowing my high."
I fall against
the kitchen table
knocking it over.
The body hits the floor,
I jump on the body,
pound its chest
to start the heart.
"I'm going to use
the guy-next-door's phone
to call the ambulance-
"Give her mouth to mouth,"
I holler
running out of my apartment.
I dial for help,
give the address;
walk back
across the hallway
with relief.
My apartment door
is closed.
I think
"Face it,
she's dead;"
open the door-
see Kathy sucking
Caroline's left nipple,
fingering her vagina.
The right nipple
is the bluest nipple
I've ever seen.
I think:
"This must be hell."
I back out of the room,
close the door quietly,
and open it.
Kathy looks up smiling,
"Relax honey,
she's gone."
"Fuck you,"
I shout;
opening the window
to let cold air in.
I kneel
beside Caroline, thinking,
"My best friend's dead."
I whisper in her ear,
"The police are coming,
you'd better hope you die.
They'll call your parents,
who'll be pleased to hear
their dyke daughter OD'ed
on heroin.
your parents are here,
She springs
from the floor,
tries to run through
the kitchen wall,
falls down whimpering.
"You stupid bitch,"
I scream,
"Kathy, get her out of here!"
They leave.
I cry,
run to the street,
The police
arrive before the ambulance.
I explain:
"It's okay,
she came to
and left."
The cop shakes his head,
drives off.
Caroline has more
heroin in her pocket,
I run through
the Lower East Side
to her apartment
dodging Puerto-Rican kids
in Halloween costumes.
I hear one
in a clown suit say:
"Did you see that white girl?
She's what I call stoned."
His friend,
a witch,
"They're all fucking crazy."

Why Wouldn’t You Pretend Fuck Me In Starbucks? by xTx

I’d given you the opening:
leaned back, spread my legs…
I mean, I was only asking for
a few half-hearted thrusts like
3 at most

You were all,
“The guy’s right there…” and
“…they probably have video cameras…”
(you motioned to the invisible corners of the store)

I was like,
“It would’ve only taken 3 seconds and
we could’ve forever said,
‘that was the Starbucks we pretend fucked in’
whenever we passed it, but
it’s too late now…”

You said it would’ve ended up on
YouTube or something.

You said they would’ve recognized
your bat tattoo.

“Whatever,” I said. “You used to be fun…”

Then I went outside and poured hot coffee all over my wrist so I could feel something.

Two Poems by Si Philbrook‏

nearly a love song

i woke
to "Born Slippy"
thumping up
from downstairs,
cheap Gite
in St. Malo,

couldn’t think
where she was
tossed blankets lay around
then the sound
of bacon frying,

is a pile of shit
i’ll stay with someone forever
who makes me bacon butties
the morning after.

Georgia Moon at Midnight

i am unslept
through this dusky-warm night

like blues and whisky
i hear the breath of new orleans

like softness, i ache for you,

an un-made bed,
a smile, a touch,

these are what i miss
this georgia night.

Life Is So Unfair by Maria Gornell

Between rasping breaths, she tells me life is so unfair
an oxygen tank beside her, an empty ashtray
Pills, inhalers, empty chairs.

Her frame bloated with steroids face contorted in
arthritic pain; bruised body from insulin syringes,
bluesy grey eyes lost sparkle.

She tells me life is so unfair I can only nod in
agreement; no I told you so’s adding insults to
injury that would be unfair.

She is sixty nine years watching fitter elders
climb mountains cruise around the world
while she sits and sits waiting for grim reaper
to appear.

Born in workhouse labelled bastard at birth
Catholicism forced down throat called mummy
aunt - lived between 2 homes, one poverty
stricken porn brokers delight other middle class
respectability – farce.

In evening red lights switched to service
rat a tat tat on door; the rest I’m unaware.

She mistook love for a back alley thrust
blood on his vest he whispered
‘You’ll have to marry me now’

No child of mine
labelled bastard she swore.

The beatings became worth a pay packet on Fridays
food in cupboards - worse the loneliness
she feared, the father she never knew.

Life begins at 50 she sang ‘simply the best down
a Welsh bachelors ear who showed her Sorrento
pinned flowers in her hair.

He never bought a ring when sickness/commitment
came mummy's boy ran for hills. Bitterness sets in.

She tells me life is so unfair foolishly we imagine it
will never happen to us; I sit rattled with fear losing
her feels so near yet I’m powerless to console her.

I ring my brother he’s off to watch the Derby
I tell him the news, he say’s
I hate fuckin winter.

lunch and fishnets by Puma Perl

we always take the window seat in Odessa’s
crusty kids panhandle on Avenue A, receiving
change only from those born poor, and able
to recall aging runaway children, arthritic
from frozen nights and broken bones unset,
brains addled by cheap wine and bad drugs,

his camera hangs from his neck and he eats
cold borscht, Gus the waiter screws up again
and my food comes later (don’t worry, he said,
i’ve got this – as if i were concerned), the sun
plays with old leather, and i remember why
i left, though not why i began, as we look
at photographs of bikes and tattoos, plan
another road trip, both dreaming of escape
although not with one another, it’ll be better,
he says, i’ll let you drive this time…

we walk down Clinton, i buy fishnet stockings,
he knows they’re not for him, we drop hints
of discontent with partners and liaisons,
we have taken ourselves where we go,
i still never care much and he still obsesses
about mind control and harleys, he hugs
me good-bye with one arm, the other clutches
his camera, i wander home thinking about
my new fishnet stockings, and whether
i’ll be able to get the seams perfectly straight..

On Viewing A Painting By Jackson Pollock by Mike Meraz

one of my friends

the big deal,
I could do that."

it was one of the few times
I wanted to hit

the genius of art
is the ability to make something
entirely complicated
look effortless
and natural.

you did

Last Meal by Wayne Scheer

She's going to break up with me tonight, I can feel it. That's why she wants to meet here at Linda's Cantina where we had our first date. We haven't gone back since I discovered she doesn't like Mexican food. At least I'll have a good meal when she tells me it's over. Kind of like feeding a condemned man his favorite food before frying him.

In her own way, Katie is being considerate. She knows how much I've missed the tilapia tacos they serve here. And we'll both be able to drive away in our own vehicle. A clean break. As if a break-up is ever clean.

I've been through this before. I always end up acting cold and distant, saying little more than, "If that's what you want, fine by me." I hate the way I feel inside when that happens, but what else can I do? Beg her to stay? Tell her I love her? That won't help me or her. Should I say something like, "At least we had six good months. I'm a better man for that." I probably couldn't get words like that out without rolling my eyes. I could try something macho, like "It was good while it lasted, baby." Or I could go for debonair. Kiss her hand and whisper, "Au revoir."

Yeah, right. I'd follow that by tripping over my two left feet.

The problem is I don't want to lose Katie. She's smart, funny and way more than I could hope for. When you look up the word dweeb in the dictionary you find a picture of me, but for half a year, she's seemed not to mind that I can't dance and find Will Ferrell funny.

I don't mind sitting in my office all day crunching numbers, if I know I'm meeting her for drinks and dinner afterwards, followed by a quiet night of TV and lovemaking.

A month ago, I suggested she move in with me when the lease was up at her place. Instead, she renewed it for another year. So I've been prepared for this.

Our differences became obvious when she dragged me to a Yo Yo Ma concert and I fell asleep. I tried staying awake, but cello music doesn't exactly get my toes a' tapping. I assured her I wasn't asleep, just closing my eyes to appreciate the music. Man, did she ever give me a poke when I started snoring.

There she is, looking as wonderful as ever, with her dark hair and long legs. I walk towards her. She takes my hands and pecks me on the cheek. As soon as we're shown to a table, even before the waiter takes our drinks order, she says, "Ron, we have to talk."

Instead of the beer that goes so well with the tacos, I order scotch. A double. Neat.

Texas Tornado by Barry Basden

You know, the kind of gal walks into the Dew Drop about 3 in the
afternoon, slides up to the bar in her tight jeans and peasant
blouse, orders up an icy long-neck Shiner or maybe a Corona with a
slice just to be ornery.

She tilts it back and conversation stops while the ol' boys propping
up the bar watch her swallow a goodly part of it down. Oh, the lovely
muscles of her lovely neck bouncing that cute little teething ring
necklace just above those mesmerizing breasts.

Then she sashays past the empty pool table to the jukebox in the
corner, leans over it in those jeans, studies awhile, and finally
punches up K-13, Robert Earl Keen's "High Plains Jamboree" and by the
time its sad and lonesome two-step first verse ends, she's seated in
a straight back chair at an empty table.

"Howdy, boys," she says with a smile that could melt January sleet in

And the slightly untidy bartender in her cutoff Levi's and her pale
yellow halter top with no cleavage stares hard at her. She knows
someone from a whole other league has just ruined her day.

Two Poems by xTx

Boot Camp

The girl got in
with her summer blonde hair and huge rack.
She got in.
I know that shit will be raped.
Maybe not in the hairy hands on wrists/dick tearing vaginal walls sense, but most definitely
when night comes
and they are weary of using the longest fingernail to pick the cardboard boogers from the dust lined walls of their nasal cavities and
the regimented regimenting and
all they have to look forward to are
thoughts of their face in her
summer hair
and how she must taste
down there
The raping begins
fists flying
while she sleeps
dreams of home
soothing her uniformed

Stupid Girl Shit

You are flowers in my mouth.
You are the smell of perfume on my undershirt,
crumpled soft in my hands.
I bury my face.
Every picture, I know, is everything to do with her and
it hurts
I can’t lie
Love is a stomach ache…a burned down house
where I live.
No comfortable spot on the couch.
You live in a raging forest
I watch you through a window,

Good Morning Self by H.R. McGonigal

Good morning Self, open mouth self; out come the molecules of morning, round, voluptuous. Out come the sounds of a new tongue, lips teeth tonsil parade vowel verb rainbow noun. Dove wing beats like horse hoof, a gentle canter. Blue jays screech, cackle and laugh at each other in rapid fire greetings. We all unfold aurally together. I unwrap my natural heart beat discovered and the doves coo-flutter like thin, thread pulse, something warm you might find in the forest and press against; a tree, a wrist. Tiny assorted birds wake with the dawn and their sound is like Christmas bells, their sound makes the smell of tea. They percolate. The volcano mouth of morning erupts continuously now as a gigantic plane flies invisibly above, loud, like tectonics, shifting layers of sky planet, evolution in motion. And the dainty hummingbird concurs, fluttering. The yellow brick road; teeth stained by coffee and cigarettes, leads to the wizard who lives inside.

Closing Time by Lester Allen

I can still make out the tune
of Pat Boone on the radio
doing Metallica, with a glass of JB
the nearest exit incase things got too wild.
she was a lawyer there on her balcony
and other places too, I’d imagine
and my friend had his tongue in her mouth
just moments before,
he’d say later that she was a terrible kisser
and that moments after their twining of tongues
and hours before he told me about it
he filtered his vomit through the
ivy that clung to the balustrade
of her balcony
and I went inside,
Jim and I being already quite good friends
and I feeling pretty good of things
(he always encouraged me to be at my best)
decided that, in addition to taking a piss in this strange
lawyer’s bathroom
that what I really wanted to do was to take
a nice hot bath.
so I drew the water, got
undressed and slipped in
finished the Beam
while I thumbed some pages of Heller’s
Closing Time
and thinking about the girl that I’d just met
a few hours ago
in the bar downstairs
while the bartender played backgammon
with one of the patrons and the others went
on about the Yankees,
she was making eyes with me
and talking about making wine
and I was talking to her about making poetry.
it was all very wonderful and I thought:
this one could make me forget all the women
that have ever wronged me, and still this might be true
but then her friend got sick
and she had to leave.

the water was getting cold and my fingers had started
to prune a bit. I shook myself awake and let down the water.

back outside again with my friend, the lawyer, Pat and Jim,
they, too drunk to notice my wet head, offered me more to drink.
I filled up, then excused myself from the balcony
much as before and stumbled back inside
where I found a large orange cat that belonged to the lawyer
and who looked like good conversation.
I followed him behind the couch
and fell asleep.


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