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Jose Romero – Perceptions


Believe me,
nobody wants to be loved.

What good lies
in the isolated knowledge of one
who loves,
one who finds himself in love?
……………………What good is it to me that you
……………………love me?
The truth is irrelevant when it
comes to individuals.
……………………What a useless thing—to be loved.

But to feel it, ah!
All souls, all spheres
of energy and matter
were created to seek it.
……………………We bathe ourselves in the
……………………hope to find it:
……………………The feeling,
……………………not the truth behind it.

For what is a color
other than the thing we see?
No reality can go beyond a belief,
becoming inconsequential.

Maybe they don’t know it,
maybe they can’t understand,
yet nobody really wants to be loved,
what they want is to feel as if they were.

– Jose Romero

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A.J. Huffman – Meditations on the Half Shell

Meditations on the Half Shell
A Haiku String

Waves leave me stranded
My body recalls the pull
of salty siren

I echo remorse
My shell an amplifier
of solitude

The sun rises
My body warms to resolve
accepts stasis

Hours tick like time bombs
Metronomic visions
of feet and feathers

Owning neither
I sink further into sand
pretend I am coffin

Waiting for death
I discover a new concept

The world moved forward 
into perceived reversal 
I am recycled

Arms of tomorrow
embrace me like yesterday
I breath as if I am home.

A.J. Huffman

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Robin Vigfusson – My Brother, Steve

My Brother, Steve

Steve looks rested, has all his teeth and his shirt is immaculate; you would never in a million years think this guy was on welfare.  He’s my brother and we meet once a year for my birthday treat at the restaurant of his choice.  This year, he’s chosen Olive Garden.

 Aside from this splurge, I supplement his upkeep with a monthly check which he demands with the punctuality of a landlord.  I’ve paid him thousands in what might be called blood money.  

What else can I do?   Certainly, no person in his right mind wants to end up like him.  According to his caseworker, he’s anti-social.   His life has been one long con job though he was shrewd enough to avoid jail by making all his victims those who loved him; people who’d never go to the police.  

“You look good,” I tell Steve knowing how important  his appearance is to him even at this stage of the game.   One of the symptoms of his disorder is narcissism. 

“Really?” his shady earnestness is still winsome.   Another trait that marks his pathology is charm.

That  compliment launches him into his routine diatribe about loneliness and the crushing indignities of subsidized housing.   His room is not even equipped to handle air conditioning.  In this heat, I can’t help wincing.   It’s too painful for me to use the word ‘poverty’ when I tell others about him.   ‘He’s living on SSI’ dilutes the brutal reality.

He resorts to a hard sell.  “Why can’t I move in with you?  A month at the most till I’m on my feet, again?”  He’s sixty now.    I’ve heard this for ten years, since he went through the last of what my parents left him. 

“You can’t move in with us,” I tell him.   “Eric would never allow it.”  Eric is my husband.

“You have all that space, for God’s sake!”  he says accusingly.

“What can I tell you?  Eric would leave me.  I can’t destroy my marriage.”  I hold fast to what Eric told me, once.  How a parasite’s overriding instinct is always to devour its host.

We finish our lasagna and  I leave the restaurant feeling mainly relieved that I won’t have to see him again for another year.

When I get home, my two cats greet me.  Except for them, I live alone.  My husband died two years ago, but Steve doesn’t need to know that.

– Robin Vigfusson

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K. M. Gibb – Something Horrible In Need of Killing

Something Horrible In Need of Killing

The three older boys hanging out behind our school said that they’d killed a rabid dog at the abandoned air force base. “We slashed at him until I got him in the stomach,” one of them said.

“Did he bleed out?” I asked, trying to sound cool.

“No. He didn’t fucking bleed out,” the tallest boy said, tossing a pocketknife between his hands. “I threw my knife and hit him between the eyes.”

I stared at his knife in awe.

“There are tons of rabid dogs there. Twenty bucks to watch us kill one.” He looked at me and then at my friends, Kyle and Thomas. “Or are you a bunch of pussies?”

“I’m no pussy,” Kyle said.

Thomas and I nodded in agreement.

The tallest boy slid the knife into his pocket and then unrolled a pack of cigarettes from his shirtsleeve. He flicked a lighter on in one motion, something I couldn’t do even after practicing all Fourth of July. “Tonight then,” he said, taking a drag.

When I got home, I counted my money slowly. It had taken me all summer to save that much, and I wanted to feel like it belonged to me a little longer. Then I looked through my closet for a pocketknife my grandfather had given me. All afternoon, I threw it at a picture of a menacing dog until it stuck every time. Then, I oiled and sharpened it until it gleamed.   Continue Reading »

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James Mulhern – A Nun’s Arse

A Nun’s Arse

“What a shame,” Nonna said when I arrived at her place after working at the family restaurant. “Mary Muldoon just called. Drunk as a skunk, asking if I knew where her husband Jim was and quite annoyed at the Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant. Said they were sending her pork fried rice and egg rolls at least three times a week. Claims she never ordered a thing.”

“Where’s her husband?”

“Molly, he’s dead. Has been for years. She found him in the living room around dinner time. Massive heart attack.”

“Oh, that’s terrible.”

“She must be having blackouts and forgetting things. Or she’s imagining that they are delivering the food. Mary has squash rot. Poor thing. Her mind’s all messed up.”

“What’s ‘squash rot’ ?”

“It means your brain is rotted from too much alcohol. When she drinks, Mary gets delusional and hallucinates.”

“She eats at our restaurant once a week and never says much unless it’s to complain. She’s nasty to me. She told my father that I’m a ‘clumsy oaf,” and said that I should be washing dishes instead of serving food.”

“You’ve got to have compassion, Molly. She’s been through a lot and can’t help herself. Addiction to alcohol is a terrible thing.”

“I don’t think it’s an excuse to be mean, Nonna.”

I excused myself, saying I had homework, and went to her bedroom where I would hang out until my parents closed the restaurant. Continue Reading »

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Victoria Griffin – Thorns


If he had been sitting on a lazy cloud, looking down at the world, it might almost have looked nice. The patchwork of rice paddies could have been a green quilt thrown over the earth. Henry’s rifle hung heavily from his shoulder, and silently he wept—knowing that I could not weep aloud.

Guns and smoke were tattooed over his mind, blurring the image of five young faces. Even through the haze of regret, he remembered the way the eyes had looked as were jolted out of this world by soldiers’ bullets. Death should be peaceful, a gentle settling, the end to a long journey. Not accompanied by groans and shouts. Not full of agony like flares erupting in their skin. Not pain. That wasn’t the way to die—certainly not at eighteen years old. Damn kids were to young to grow beards. Now they’re dead because their skin and uniforms were the wrong colors.

Henry walked on, surveying the land and the approaching huts, his head held high, his pride evident, and his wretched guilt consuming him more quickly than war. The civilians scattered as he stepped through the settlement. He watched a woman gather up her child and set off in the opposite direction, leaving him only a hollow glance.

That’s how he felt. Hollow. Like a rotted tree. I’m a medic for God’s sake. I’m not a soldier. Henry slipped into an empty hut. He leaned his rifle against the wall and unfastened his bandoliers, letting the deathly spirits slip away from his body. But he could not dispel them from his presence. They lingered—as though they were meant for him. He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and held a cigarette to his lips, frowning at his shaking hands and the lighter that refused to catch flame. Continue Reading »