Monday, October 23, 2006

Poetry and Stories by Carissa Halston

The Powers of Self-Delusion

Have you ever had a one night stand?
I know what you're thinking. One night stand? Jesus, those are terrible.
They never turn out well.
It'll only lead to trouble.
Yeah, you should definitely steer clear of those one night stands.
Well, it's too late for me.
I've already had one.
With the most wonderful man in the whole wide world.
We're going to be together forever.
You'll see.
We met at this bar.
And he was really charming.
My friend, Allison, says that all the guys I end up falling for are invariably "really charming." But he was. The real deal. I mean it.
So he asks me.
"Can I walk you home?"
And I'm all like,
"I don't know. You're a stranger and my mom always told me to never talk to strangers."
"Don't worry. I was voted Most Likely to Take Home to Mom and Dad when I was in high school."
How's about that for credentials?
So we walked home.
Except I was wearing high heels and I was a little tipsy, so I had to lean on him a bit.
He walked...I hobbled.
So, we get to my apartment and I'm like,
"Here we are."
And we stare at each other and I'm having trouble remembering this part because it was kind of blurry already, but add memory to that and it's a fuzzy memory of a blurry vision.
I remember what he said though.
That I remember.
"Aren't you going to invite me in?"
And I said:
"Mighty presumptuous of you."
But then we were kissing and there was a fumbling for my keys and the door was open and we were inside.
See? I told you. Charming.
I have never been kissed like I was kissed by this man.
It was all very immediate and dire.
Like his life depended on it.
Like our life depended on it.
I remember the sex in little bits and pieces.
There were good parts and not so good parts.
The foreplay was infinitely better than the actual act.
In fact, the sex itself was brief and harried.
When I woke up this morning, he was gone.
Initially, I was miffed.
But he left me something.
It's a book.
But not the kind that's written.
The kind that you write.
I had a few reserves about reading these things about someone I didn't know.
Would I want someone reading my innermost thoughts?
And then I thought about when I was twelve.
I had a diary with a lock on it.
I didn't always keep it locked.
Only if I had written something that wasn't for peering eyes...
Or something I was ashamed of.
But if it was unlocked and someone else read it, that was my own fault.
There was no lock on this book.
So I opened it.
Pages of confessions, longings and laments lay before me.
Should I read them?
Could I?
I could.
I did.
I read how he was in love.
A girl whose name is never mentioned.
He envisioned them creating a life together.
They'd have kids.
They'd vacation every year in
They'd be happy.
And I wondered, idly, if that girl could be me.
Did he write all of this last night?
Did he leave it here for me to happen upon?
Did he agonize over leaving me alone?
Did he love me?
I read those pages again and again.
I relished and memorized certain passages.
And I knew.
It was me.
It is me.
We'll be married in
We'll honeymoon in
We'll wander the world together discovering little things about other people and each other.
And we'll be happy.

A knock is heard at the door.
"It's him," she whispers.
She holds her hand on the knob. Frozen.
She steels herself to turn it.
The door is open.
It is him.
She thinks that standing there, in that exact position, he looks just like he did that time they were on the beach. Catching fish illegally. She wonders if he remembers...
They face each other.
"Hey," he says.
"Hi," she replies.
"I think..." he says.
"I love you," she thinks.
"I left something here last night," he finishes.
"Oh?" she says.
"Yeah. Small black book. Something of a journal, really."
She smiles at the thought of the kind words he spoke in it.
"I was wondering if you'd realize it was gone," she says.
She goes to get it and returns to the door with it in her hand. She wants him to ask if she's read it. If she knows how he feels.
He doesn't.
She sees an absence in his face. He looks directly at the book.
Slowly, painfully, she relinquishes it.
He takes it.
As soon as it leaves her hands, her memories of him fade.
"Thanks," he smiles.
"Yeah," she returns wistfully.
He turns and walks away. A memory tugs at her. Did she know him?
Watching him leave, she feels bereft of something but is unsure of what.

Fun in Garages (Vodka not Included)

Hanging out in parking garages

The well-off well-to-dos

Either sneer or clutch their wallets

Scared for your car?

That’s all we can take from you.

The material

The tangible

You, with your nose in the air,

Taking our dignity


our pride


our ability to overcome.

Is it because I’m drinking vodka out of a travel mug?

The Day Job

When I was younger, my grandfather retired from his job of thirty-two years and they gave him a gold watch. My mom said he should’ve stolen something from the office. It would’ve been worth more, she’d said. What I got from that is, what’s really important isn’t what you put into a job. It’s what you take away from it. Me? I steal wedding rings.

There’s more to it than that. I mean, I provide a service for the lonely and loathsome. A little company, a little ambiance. Maybe some small talk and then it’s down to business. Then again, I guess that can be said for any job. However, the fellatio is an added bonus. A whore by any other name would smell as…

Anyway, just so you know, I make my own rates. The basic wine and dine escort service, no touchy is $50. Suitor pays for dinner.

Cutting to the chase, a blow job is $75, a rim job is $150. Just sex, your average mount-me-like-a-pony sex is $250. Oral+sex is $400. And if you want me to stay the night (i.e. sex+whatever, whatever being anal sex, golden showers, fetish, et al.) is $750. But, yeah, I steal wedding rings.

I think of it as vacation time. I accrue enough; I can take them to the pawnshop and take a week off. It’s only backfired once.

I could not get this guy’s ring off. He woke up and backhanded me right across the room. Stiffed me the night’s wages too. I was out of work for a week.

I don’t see what the big deal is…if the ring was so fucking important, if that symbol of his marriage meant so much to him, why was he with me?

People are so fickle.

An ‘Untitled’ Evening in Early June

Children pass by,
not running.
"We don't run outside, William.
Come and stand by Mommy.
No, William.
You can't sit on Mommy's lap.
It would wrinkle her skirt."
These children,
forbidden from running,
they were born wearing khakis.
They'll always have
They were tailored to match their parents.
A woman strolls by and admires the iron tree.
I reiterate...
'It's pretty, but $40,000?
Maybe some other time.'
Her shoes closely resembled
black licorice rope.

The phrase,
"Just because no one understands you
doesn't make you an artist"
comes to mind.

The guy with the
full-sleeve tattoos
keeps trying to make eye contact.
We seek out our own kind.

A tray passes at eyelevel.
Laden with food.
The M.F.K. Fisher
kind of food.
The kind of food rendered in
still life paintings.
I look around.
360 degrees.

This is not an escape.
This is how the rich live.
This is just a Thursday in June.
They're trying so hard.
And yet...
The most interesting people here are
the cater-waiters.


I flip off almost everyone I come in contact with.
It’s a disease.
It’s my gift to the world.
It’s my silent wish that, upon my offering, that person would turn tail, run to the nearest closed room, and fuck themselves.

I flip off my girlfriend every morning.
She wakes up, showers and puts her bra on to tease me. She knows as soon as it’s on, I just want to rip it off of her.
I flip her off from under the blanket before she leans in to kiss me goodbye.

I flip off the guy at the bus station with the unnaturally hot girl on his arm because his hair lays the way I wish mine would.

I flip off every girl I see with pants or shorts that have words like “Cheer” or “Swimmer” printed on the ass. I wish they’d be more honest in their merchandising and print something more relevant to that part of our anatomy.
Words like “stinky” and “peachfuzz.”
Phrases like, “Do not enter,” and “Place tongue here.”

I make a mental note to flip off the manufacturer of those pants, should we ever meet.

I flip off every person who asks me if they can exit the shithole where I’m employed by the door clearly marked, “exit.” I flip them off under the counter so my boss doesn’t see it.

I flip off my boss with both hands because he deserves it.

I flip off every person I encounter with McDonald’s on their breath and a Wal-Mart bag in their hand.

My sister bought me a T-shirt with a picture of a hand with the middle finger extended. I felt it took away from my message, so, after she left, I flipped her off through the door and put the shirt through the paper shredder.

I just want to make a difference…spread a little joy.

Carissa Halston, 24, is the writer/director of Cleavage (a

collection of one-act plays) and contributing editor at the online literary

magazine, apt. Her work has been published at Unlikely Stories v1.0, Fables,

Open Wide Magazine and apt. She has upcoming work in both the online and

print versions of Zygote in my Coffee. Her website is:

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Charles P. Ries, Poetry by.........Charles P. Ries (Poet).....


Sitting on the porch outside my walk up with Elaine

watching the Friday night action on Birch Street.

Southside’s so humid the air weeps.

Me and Elaine are weeping too.

Silent tears of solidarity.

She’s so full of prozac she can’t sleep and

I’m so drunk I can’t think straight.

Her depression and my beer free our tears

from the jail we carry in our hearts.

Neighbors and strangers pass by in the water vapor.

Walking in twos and fours. Driving by in souped up

cars and wrecks. Skinny, greased up gang bangers

with pants so big they sweep the street and girl friends

in dresses so tight they burn my eyes.

I can smell Miguel’s Taco Stand. Hear the cool

Mexican music he plays. Sometimes I wish Elaine

were Mexican. Hot, sweet and the ruler of my passion,

but she’s from North Dakota, a silent state where

you drink to feel and dance and cry.

Sailing, drifting down Birch street. Misty boats,

street shufflers and senioritas. Off to their somewhere.

I contemplate how empty my can of beer is and

how long can I live with a woman who cries all day.

Mondays are better. I sober up and lay lines for the

Gas Company. Good clean work. Work that gives me

time to think about moving to that little town in central

Mexico I visited twenty years ago before Birch Street,

Elaine and three kids nailed my ass to this porch.



I left it all; the paper and pens, publishers

and agents who could not love my inner

fantasy and joined the circus.

The make-up, big nose and fancy pants

helped me overcome my feelings of

obscurity. I created an identity grander

than my literary art. I now have something

worth writing about.

I married the fat lady, she gave birth to

a midget; I learned to swallow swords,

made friends with a contortionist who

told me to turn my pens into pretzels,

and live like a real man.


Elaine took me to her German psychic,

as expected, she saw everything.

Our bad days and our glories.

The history of the times and species;

we have been together

for generations.

Realizing how long I have been with Elaine

made me feel tired – I didn’t realize we’d been

working things out for over 400 years.

That’s a long time to accommodate a sentient being,

I don’t care what form I was in; me as:

Her cat

Her dog

Her sister

Her butler

Her mother

Her hair stylist

Gerta saw it all against her inner astral cineplex.

I didn’t know I was once a charming pistol packing pescalero

a handsome Mexican bandit who charmed Elaine

(in an earlier even more succulent form)

to indulge my desires.

Irresistible under a vast pecan tree.

My sombrero tossed casually to the side

The Milky Way strung over our heads.

I pick the flower she willingly offers me.

We melt into the warm night – two sentient beings

as happy as two sentient beings could ever be.

She, the sheriff’s daughter

virgin, sixteen, flawless

filled with secret flames

Me, hanging from a pecan tree

limp, twitching, forlorn

looking a bit bewildered

My sombrero tossed hurriedly to the side

Too many lives to hold in one small boat.

Yet on we sail, east to paradise

fighting our way toward enlightenment,

the only exit strategy

for two weary souls.


You will love me forever, until you became

bored with predictability and leave me

for a man who plays board games and

grows the best pot you ever smoked

After being beaten

my belief in mother love falters

only eleven years old

and exhausted by her love

I simply forgive

Even animals must flee when frightened

Falling out of mind

into life

they are orphans

Mysteries of mind leaving me silent

as I await further direction


Corn fields line the lake shore

Corner bars, cheddars lament, cheese wiz

Pig fat, french fried, double dipped, deep fried

Just about anything editable


Amazing how

her words

clear me.

How her

insight can

dispel shadows.

Magic spells

simple and


Aspirin for

my confusion.


Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over one hundred and fifty print and electronic publications. He has received three Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing and most recently read his poetry on National Public Radio’s Theme and Variations, a program that is broadcast over seventy NPR affiliates. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory. Ries is also the author of five books of poetry — the most recent entitled, The Last Time which was released by The Moon Press in Tucson, Arizona. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot (, a contributing editor to both Andwerve ( and Pass Port Journal ( He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore ( in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most recently he has been appointed to the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. You may find additional samples of his work by going to:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Poetry by William Taylor Jr.

Portrait of a Woman

She had
skin like leather
the cruelest mouth
I’d ever seen
and eyes as hard
as the streets
on which she walked
everything she owned
in a plastic crate
beneath her arm
an ancient radio
screaming jazz
as she walked down Eddy St.
on a Sunday
her clothes
ragged and
ill fitting
but her legs
still as beautiful
as any
that ever were
and those eyes
meeting mine
daring me
to say so.

And No One Left to Remember

These days my wife
is troubled
by the slow and ongoing
death of our earth

and all the reasons for it

and how the president
and nobody else
much cares.

It keeps her from sleep.

She does not believe in god
but sometimes wishes
that she did.

The thought of every beautiful thing

and no one left
to remember.

She asks me why we should be bothered
to do anything
at all

and I don’t have much of an answer

except that I imagine there must be some kind of beauty
in these tiny moments

the fact that they exist at all
is maybe reason enough.

I think about it and I
don’t think about it.

I’ve never known what to do about anything.

I think tomorrow I will start
drinking early.

Your Eyes Like The Sun

I have no god but
a decent bloody mary
on an otherwise
empty afternoon
does its part
to calm the troubled soul

and I imagine
others too
must weary
of trying to hold the world together

on a day
when you can’t get
too numb
too fast

on a day
when all the murders
and suicides
make perfect sense

when the surface of things
peels away in flakes
and the void shines through

burning your eyes
like the sun

like the flashlight
of a motherfucking cop
when you know you are


William Taylor Jr. was born in Bakersfield, California and currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and a cat named Trouble. His poetry and stories have appeared widely in the small press and on the internet. He is the author of numerous chapbooks and his work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His latest book is So Much Is Burning published by sunnyoutside Press. A book of his collected poems is forthcoming from Centennial Press. He will one day be the last man in America not to own a cell phone.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Poetry by
Bradley Mason Hamlin

Poetry by
Bradley Mason Hamlin

Bukowski’s Shadow Strikes

The only people
who may or may not call themselves
that suffer
from the shadow of Bukowski
are the ones
not yet lit
with enough of their own lightning
doesn’t matter
what a stupid reviewer says
you should be so lucky
to even get compared
to the best
but can you make the wild puppet
dance on your own?
can you carve
from your flesh
a blood & gut creature
made of pulp
and ink?
Bukowski left us the words “don’t try”
on his grave marker
just another joke
you’ve got to do a whole lot more
than simply try
you’ve got to be the biggest
monster in town
and stomp the buildings
with style
--if you’re looking good
going the distance
with super atomic monkeys
and sex-crazed naked robots
but nobody
will be able to cast a shadow
over the wine bottle
of your heart
least of all
the uninterested ghost
of Mr. Bukowski.


Downtrodden, he said
A man shouldn’t have to work
So hard for his bread.


my family
moved back and forth
from west L.A. to east side
depending on my father’s finances
was born in a hospital in Los Angeles
and lived northeast
in Highland Park until seven
then moved to Santa Monica
--really another world—
then back to HP when 12
fighting cholos
on the way home from school
experimenting with every drug available
mom drinking herself to death
in front of me
dad gone all hours
trying to hustle Hollywood
violent brother
under Christian mind control …
Mom dead; me 15
Dad and I moved in with one of his friends
near the Chinese Theatre
then conned enough frog skins to live
in Marina Del Rey for 7 months
going to Santa Monica High school
couldn’t cut it there
too different from east side education
joined Navy and sailed away
at the age of 17
traveled west coast of world
landed in Sacramento when 20
started college as psychology major
got bored
started writing at 25
switched major to English
graduated from UC Davis
starving student; starving artist
started the process of working horrible jobs
singing/writing for punk rock bands
and eventually moving from silly lyrics
to reading/writing poetry …
turned 42 on November 20th

and I’m still not a rock star.

Bradley Mason Hamlin lives in Sacramento, California. His poetry, short
stories, and articles have appeared in several small press books, magazines,
and literary journals in print and on line. Brad & his wife Nicky own
Mystery Island Publications, literary pop culture venue. Recent work
includes the publication of Tough Company by singer/songwriter Tom Russell,
featuring: Charles Bukowski. Brad is also the creator of the metaphysical
crime series: Intoxicated Detective. For more information about Hamlin and
other wild things—visit: