Friday, January 29, 2021

TUNNEL OF INSULTS by J. Archer Avary

the new kid at school came from Texas
he dropped in mid-year via parachute
unfamiliar with the complex social dynamic
of Mrs. Holdren’s third grade classroom
everyday was lord of the flies at recess
he was different so they made him a target
desperate to win friends and influence people
the new kid went along with their games

the hardest one was the tunnel of insults
the object was to climb the rungs of a ladder 
while withstanding terrible verbal abuse
how did third graders know such vile words?

the new kid entered the tunnel: ‘asshole!’
as he climbed the rungs the insults worsened
‘fuck your mama!’ they said ‘eat shit and die!’
he was invincible, words couldn’t hurt him

the other kids tried hard to turn him back
‘shit your pants!’ they shouted ‘cocksucker!’
insult after insult, the new kid climbed higher
until he made it to the penultimate rung
no other third grader had made it this far
it was time for the mother of all insults
‘fuck your mama’s cunt with a shit dildo!’
he just laughed as he emerged from the tunnel

the other kids viewed him with new respect
‘is that the best you motherfuckers can do?’
he smiled and cracked his knuckles
knowing that he'd fit in at his new school 

J. Archer Avary (he/him) is a former TV journalist. His writing has appeared in Riot Act Mag, Burnt Breakfast Mag, What Are Birds?, Horse Egg Literary, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, and Potato Soup Journal. He lives on a tiny island in the English Channel. Twitter: @j_archer_avary

Saturday, January 23, 2021

At least you have a woman by Ryan Quinn Flanagan

My woman doesn’t respect me anymore,
says Bart.
She’s started hugging me
like she’s not afraid anymore.

At least you have a woman,
says Mike.
All I have is this hand.

You mean that thing you used to shake hands
with us this morning?

That very same one!
he laughs.

I look at my hand, 
trying to scrape some mystery 
thing off.

You’re probably already prego,
he laughs.
I’m not paying for your mistake.

When have you ever paid for anything?
I say.

Remember that whore from Haliburton that tried to kill me,
that one with the crazy overbite?
How she poisoned me with arsenic for like three weeks?
I really paid for that one.

We all agree.
He has paid for something.

Ryan Quinn Flanagan is a male gigolo for hire.  Presently residing along the sunny shores of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where he spends his days drinking discount Tequila and accusing chemtrails of being "sky farts."  His work can be found both in print and online in such joints as: The Rye Whiskey Review, The Dope Fiend Daily, Outlaw Poetry Network, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Under The Bleachers.

Patti Smith, My Mom and Me by Kevin M. Hibshman

It was 1978. I was fourteen and floundering in a small town , nowhere, USA. I spent most of my time shuffling between being bored sick at school and playing the proverbial black sheep at home. I was a rebel in thought only. It was still an innocent time. 

        The town had three shoe factories, one paper mill, a chocolate factory and a place that made leg-hold traps for catching animals before they were forced to stop making them. The 70's were awash in a lazy cloud of naivete. Conformity was law. No questions asked. No answers tolerated. 

        I had cultivated an early interest in pop music that supplanted my need for socializing. My mom played the small transistor radio she kept stashed on a cart in the kitchen. A cart with wheels that never moved. One morning my sister and I were goofing around being silly, pestering my mother as she prepared lunch when time halted for me because of a song.

        The song began inconspicuously enough with a pretty piano but when the voice broke in, my world shifted. Skull rockets fired. My neurons were sent skipping over a lake of fire. I'd never heard anything like that voice. It was pure sex, the dangerous kind. It was romantic yet threatening. I needed more. It was Patti Smith's brand new single “Because the Night” and it launched me on a lifetime of exploration. 

     I found the record and the photo on the sleeve, remember 45's? was as unusual and captivating as the tune nestled inside. A wild-looking woman with unkempt hair was cupping her breast in one hand.

It was all there; the power, the passion, the mystery. Needless to say, I spun that little 45 many many times, never getting enough of the thrill. This was a blinding love, one that ravishes as it strips away the many layers of pretense we wear as protection.

       I had to buy the album. The cover of the LP was another jolt. Patti looking tough and a bit ravaged was sporting under arm hair in the photo! Flipping it over, I gazed at the song titles: “Rock and Roll Nigger?!” Whoa...I knew some kind of portal was about to open in front of me. It was also going to open in the family living room where the only stereo was located. My mom hadn't yet commented on my new discovery. That would change rather abruptly.

        I got the album home, burning with anticipation and immediately put it on. This was raw rock and roll and this woman sang it like no one I'd heard before. I was aware of punk but hadn't delved into it just yet. Patti made my palms sweat, my glands secrete. She took my imagination hostage and I could not have been a more willing victim. Everything was going fine until we got to “Babelogue,” the spoken word piece that segues brilliantly into the aforementioned N-word song. My mom was in the kitchen, doing dishes and didn't catch Patti declaiming: “I haven't fucked much with past but I fucked plenty with the future.” I was relieved at first but the sensitive slang kept coming, not to mention the dicey religious metaphors. By the close of side one of “Easter,” Patti had run through a litany of words my mother would find offensive but still hadn't noticed. I, of course had lowered the volume considerably by then. Things were only heating up.

        I made it through the first side of the album but was not prepared for the opening salvo on side two. Patti ends the 60's cover tune “Privilege” by chanting “I'm so young, I'm so god damn young” and then the final few “god damns” she finishes the song with. My mom HEARD all of these and came into the room. I was caught! To my parent's credit, they never forbade me any music or literature I craved, even as they both became darker and more threatening to the mores they aspired to. After “Privilege” there were only a couple of “shits” and the album was over. Soon after, I received my own stereo and could close my bedroom door, crank the volume and let Patti cuss to her heart's delight. 

        Patti nearly got me in hot water again with my mom when I asked for her book: “Babel” for Christmas. All my mom would say was how she didn't care for the language and wasn't sure it was a good idea for me to procure the book. I'm sure she was shocked when she leafed through it at

the local mall. We didn't discuss Patti much after that but a new era had begun for me.

Kevin M. Hibshman has had poems published in many journals and magazines world wide. In addition, he has edited his poetry zine, Fearless, since 1990 and is the author of sixteen chapbooks including Love Sex Death Dreams (Green Bean Press, 2000) and Incessant Shining (Alternating Current, 2011).


She Had Face Like Indiana. By John Patrick Robbins

It was round and largely forgettable.
It matched her ass and her non-existent personality.

Sometimes she will reach out, when the attention isn't being given by her hard-up admirers.

Her emails go straight to spam and her voicemails I keep to amuse others.

I have a heart like the north pole it seems.

I already rode the ride, so why buy the shirt?

Never cherish a train wreck.

She had a face like Indiana.

A state that's slogan should read.

Welcome to Indiana, are you fucking lost? Because no one vacations here.

Cold baby, so very cold.

John Patrick Robbins, is the alcoholic of year for five years in row.

He is also the editor in chief of Twenty different e-zines, all of which fellow writers hate him for.

Yet continually send him work to be published in.

He has been nominated for five Pushcart awards ten Best Of The Nets a Grammy and a Academy award for his continued role of pretending to enjoy the company of writers.

In his spare time he runs the legion of doom and is the president of his local Fraternal Order Of Editors local chapter 666.

He is also in the market for a new liver.

So if you got one sitting around hit him up.

The $26 Salad by Alyssa Trivett

The steak was seasoned with
dragged-through-the-pasture seasoning
and beat like a dead rug
in a curbside FREE bin
I sailed it away and sent it back,
opted for the twenty-six dollar salad, instead.
As I got my new fix,
my shaky espresso hands
sprinkled egg bits and light parmesan,
and called it a truce with the cook,
as any good poet

Alyssa Trivett is a wandering soul from the Midwest. When not working two jobs, she chirps down coffee while scrawling lines. Her work has appeared in many places, but most recently at Ex Ex Lit, and Duane's PoeTree site.

Second Hand Lemonade by Scott Simmons

Hey, do you wanna buy my piss?
It won't help you pass any drug tests.

I still think you could do something with it though. 
Maybe you can throw it on someone you don't like.

Or drink it to gain the secret of immortality. 

Honestly I don't care as long as I get 40 dollars.

Scott Simmons sells folk art that he finds in the bathroom and he is also a nude performance artist who has made countless strangers feel uncomfortable at the bus stop.  You can also buy his new album The Webster's Dictionary at any store inside your of imagination.

Please do not look the artist directly in the eyes.

The Bad Patient by Susan Tepper

As usual Dr. Schnapps is smoking his pipe.  Out in the hall I can smell it.  I haven’t the heart to tell him that his pipe tobacco makes me nauseous. When I enter his consulting room he is standing near his desk.  He makes this little bow. “Hello, my dear.  I hope it’s been a good week.”

Like clockwork I start crying hysterically.  I don’t even have my shoes off yet when the tears pour down my face and I start retching and gagging and snot jams my nostrils.  Every week when he speaks those gentle opening words I just fall apart.

“There, there,”  he says.  “Have a tissue and lie down and tell old Schnapps all about it.”

“It’s going to take more than one tissue.”  I choke back phlegm clogging my throat.

“My dear, take the entire box.  Tissues are all part of the service.”

The script never changes.  I never feel better.  Week after month after year.

“Lie on the couch and tell old Schnapps what is troubling you, child.”

Well, for one thing, it’s your pipe.  But of course I don’t say it.  He’s deeply sensitive.  He always makes sure to have the unscented tissues without the lotion that greases them up and leaves an after-taste if you need to wipe your lips when you’re finished sobbing.  I appreciate that small touch a lot.

I also don’t say that I feel strange calling him Schnapps when his diploma from Universit√© Tremblova with its gold crested seal and hand-lettered black fountain pen ink clearly has certified a ‘Dr. Emile Schnapenfodder’.  I don’t say I feel it’s silly and beneath him to mock his true name, Schnapenfodder, which his family, I’m sure, carried with a certain pride instilled in them from years of impoverished suffering in their homeland.  Filthy slobbering work that I’m sure involved pigs. 

I don’t say any of this but continue to sob each week.

Taking off my shoes, I settle onto his consulting couch.  The room is always dim and slightly warm.  Everything in here ancient; from his homeland, I suppose.

Schnapps clears his throat.  “My dear, because we are making limited progress, might I suggest you come twice a week?  Your insurance will cover the extra cost, I’m certain.”

Twice a week!  Has Schnapps gone bonkers?  Two of us bonkers cannot be a good result.  I’m trying to straighten out my neurotic tendencies and he wants me to come here and smell his pipe tobacco two times a week?  I squirm on the couch batting the pillow.

“Is it the wool pillow making you feel uncomfortable?”

“No, no.  It’s not the pillow.  I like the pillow, it keeps my neck from freezing.”

Schnapps raises one eyebrow over his round, frame-less spectacles.  It’s like a brown bristly mountain with a lot of cactus-type overgrowth.  “You have a frozen neck?” he asks.

“Well, yes.  It is winter.  It’s February.  Everyone has a frozen neck in February.”

His eyebrow collapses back down behind his specs.  “My dear, that represents a problem you are not addressing.”

“What do you mean?”

He coughs a few times.  Hollow.  I think of a skeleton coughing.  “Well,” he says finally.  “To do nothing about a frozen neck in February is to feed your neuroses.  Have you perhaps considered wearing a scarf?”


“Some women do.  Men also.  Healthy people find a way to solve what is troubling them.”

“Am I unhealthy?”

“Let’s just say for the sake of example that you get a corn on your foot.  The healthy person stops in the pharmacy and purchases a corn plaster.  Dr. Scholl sells them in a variety of sizes and styles.  The healthy person would accomplish this simple task.  While the neurotic would lament over the corn, perhaps even crying out while walking.  My dear, do you understand the difference?”

I take a moment to absorb this information.  “Is Doctor Shawl from your same University in Tremblova?”

Schnapps chuckles and the pipe nearly falls out of his mouth.

I sit up quickly.  “That could have caused a fire! You have all these old rugs.  Do you know how fast a fire can start?”  

I press my hands to my heart to stop the palpitations, at the same time spinning my head wildly searching for the exits. There’s only one way in or out. This paralyzes me.  I feel stuck to his consulting couch unable to move or speak.

“If you have trouble with a scarf you might consider a turtleneck sweater,” says Schnapps.  “They are very becoming and sold in many colors.  You certainly have the figure for it.”


I’ve heard about these therapists often seducing their patients which is why I chose one old enough to be my great-great-great grandfather.  Schnapps’ comment about my figure makes me feel more nervous than ever.  Like I want to jump out the window.  

“Where is the window?”  I say.

I realize I’ve never noticed a window.  But now I see it, there it is!  Next to a corner, with long dark maroon drapes practically hiding it.  A leafy fern on a stand placed in front of that window.  Deliberate?  

“Is that plant new?”  I say.

Did Schnapps set the plant there so he could seduce his patients while still managing to keep them from jumping out the window?

“No, it’s an old plant,” he responds.

My head feels feverish.  I sense my life veering toward minus zero.  “Have you ever heard about not smoking in public?”

Schnapps looks startled, then his eyes twinkle behind the specs.  “This is not public, my dear, this is a private medical office.”

“No!  You are wrong about that, Doctor Schnapenfodder!  I am the public. Anyone who comes here is the public.  Technically, you can only say it’s private when you’re here alone.  When I’m here it’s public.”

“Aha!”  He’s been rocking in his chair and doesn’t change the rhythm.  He grins, the pipe clenched in his teeth.  His teeth are in bad condition.  I knew that before today.  I gave him a pass on his teeth because of his poor beginnings.  I’m usually a stickler for hygiene; particularly teeth.  Teeth are one of my areas.

“You know how teeth are one of my issues?”

He nods: rocking rocking rocking.

“Doctor I feel you should have your teeth professionally cleaned.  You may have lingering bacteria that could seep down into your heart valve.”

“My dear, should we switch places?”  

When I just stare at him, he taps the pipe against a glass ash tray. “You come sit in my chair and I’ll take the couch.  I feel a bit tired today.  It will be a nice change.  You can be the doctor and I will be the bad patient.”


“Are you saying I’m a bad patient, is that what you’re saying?”

He yawns.  “No, my dear, it was just a joke.  A little joke.  When you become less neurotic your system will adjust to the humor of the universe.  Until then… we can only wait… hope.”

“OK.”  I swing my legs off the couch and stand up.  “I’ll switch with you.”

Schnapps looks surprised, then shouts,  “That’s the spirit!  Rise to the challenge.”

We pass like strangers in the night.  He lies down shutting his eyes.  “Ahhh… I had no idea my patients were so comfortable.  It is a very good couch.  Whereas that rocking chair, my dear, I hope you don’t find it too unwieldy without a nice soft cushion under your behind.”

My behind!

His eyes remain shut.  I glide toward the window.  Weightless like an apparition.  Lifting the potted fern.  Ceramic from the old country.  A pretty country scene.  It’s heavier than I expected.  Its weight makes me hunch a little.  Glancing over my shoulder, I can see his eyes are still shut, the pipe clamped in his teeth.  He’s snoring lightly.  What if that damned pipe falls onto one of the threadbare throw rugs?  Inferno!

Moving toward him, I lift the pot bringing it down on his head and hearing the crack.  The ceramic pot still strangely intact.  The pipe, landed on his chest, is not burning.  But Schnapps, dear Schnapps.  Soil spilled everywhere.  



Susan Tepper is the author of nine published books of fiction and poetry. Her most current titles are CONFESS (poetry published by Cervena Barva Press, 2020) and a funky road novel WHAT DRIVES MEN (Wilderness House Press, 2019) that was shortlisted at American Book Fest.  Tepper has received eighteen Pushcart Prize Nominations, and other awards and honors.  She's a native New Yorker.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Some Tortilla de Patatas by Gwil James Thomas

Back in my kitchen I cooked 
some tortilla de patatas 
and thought back to 
several Spanish tavernas that
I’d once known and how each 
taverna had their own version 
of tortilla de patatas 
and also how in each taverna 
the customers would stampede 
to the bar whenever 
a fresh plate was laid down - 
as tables were overturned, 
And people were trampled upon, 
and elderly women swung 
their handbags at one another - 
but each slice was delicious, 
cheap and enough to keep 
you going until the sun rolled 
back over those mountains - 
even if the taste still lingered
in your mind for much longer. 

 Gwil James Thomas is a poet, novelist and inept musician. He lives in his hometown of Bristol, England, but has also lived in London, Brighton and Spain. He’s recently been published in Alchemy & Elegy, The Black Shamrock Magazine, Expat Press and Terror House Magazine. His latest chapbook is Cocoon Transitions (Analog Submission Press) :

A Note From My Dealer. By John Patrick Robbins

  Dear John, Bro, you really got to slow down. Like I'm having to work double time just to keep up with your habit   And  I got into dea...