Monday, January 22, 2018

Flash Fiction By Jonathan Ferrini

Jonathan Ferrini is a published author who resides in San Diego. He received his MFA in Motion Picture and Television Production from UCLA.

The Final Watch
   Interstate 8 climbs west out of the Imperial Valley and twists through the rugged mountains upward into East San Diego County. My name is Tommy and I recently graduated from the Border Patrol Academy. I’m assigned to work the graveyard shift at the Campo checkpoint along Interstate 8 which is 65 miles west from the Mexican border crossing and fifty miles east from San Diego. The checkpoint is surrounded by rugged, isolated terrain accessible solely by four-wheel drive vehicles. Thousands of vehicles pass through our checkpoint daily but you wouldn’t realize it working the graveyard shift as wild animals outnumber the vehicles.
   My Senior Agent and mentor is Ben who reached mandatory retirement age. He loves his job and is a widower without children. He is kind, fatherly, and enjoys telling tales of his storied career more than training me. His rotund body is showing wear and tear. He has a limp and bouts of memory loss. Ben’s faithful partner is a drug sniffing German shepherd named “Ruger” who can hold his own in a brawl. We spend most of our shift relaxing in recliner chairs and keep a cooler filled with soft drinks and water. Ben and Ruger nod off from time to time which I don’t mind. Our office is a small trailer. It’s a full moon tonight and the sky is full of stars. A breeze is kicking up the fragrance of the chaparral.
   It’s 0230 and Ruger barks. Ben wakes and grabs the binoculars looking east down the freeway which is dark. “It looks like CHP Officer Wally is on the beat”, Ben remarks.  Although I see nothing, I won’t question a Senior Agent. Ruger is barking relentlessly and dragging Ben to the checkpoint. Ben says, “Hand me a Coke for Wally, Tommy.” I comply but remain dumfounded. The checkpoint is lit with floodlights but I see nothing. Ben and Ruger cross the two lane freeway to the checkpoint.
   Ben crouches down and leans as if peering into a vehicle to speak to a driver. Ruger stands on both legs and Ben holds him close. I watch in disbelief as Ben holds a conversation with an apparition.  Ruger barks and pulls Ben towards our chase car. Ben yells, “Wally just received a radio call to respond to an overturned tanker truck at mile marker 4.  I’m going to assist. Man the fort!” Wally and Ruger race down Interstate 8 with lights and siren. I’m tense and confused. I radio Ben who doesn’t answer. To my relief, I hear Ben request radio assistance from CAL FIRE Station 44, “Overturned fuel truck on fire. Driver trapped. Assisting CHP Officer Wally. Send fire engine and ambulance.” Within minutes, CAL FIRE Engine 44 and an ambulance race by the checkpoint. I run to our four wheel drive truck and speed towards mile marker 4 to assist.   
   Mile marker 4 is several miles west from the checkpoint. I see Ben’s chase car emergency lights flashing ahead and his chase car is positioned across the two lane freeway as a safety measure to prevent vehicles from approaching. A coyote darts from the brush, crosses my lane, and disappears into the wilderness. I swerve and narrowly miss the animal but at ninety miles per hour I struggle to gain control and keep from flipping. I maintain control of the truck and park but don’t see Ben or Ruger. There is no overturned tanker truck. Engine 44 is parked alongside the freeway with its emergency lights off. The ambulance is leaving empty. A masculine, calming voice calls to me, “Up here on the bluff, kid.” I climb up on to the bluff and meet Chief Johnny of Engine Company 44. He is tall, thin, and has a thick mane of silver hair and handlebar moustache. He is handsome and I suspect many are happy to be rescued by Johnnie. “Call it a night fellas”, Johnnie commands his men who conclude their search for Ben and Ruger.  
   Johnnie asks, “What’s your name Agent?” I reply, Tommy, Captain.  Johnnie places his arm around my shoulder and raises his head towards the sky remarking, “You can practically count every star”. I’m flustered and quivering.  Johnnie holds me tight and looks me in the eye. In a hushed voice he says, “About thirty years ago, I responded to a tanker truck fire at this very place. Ben and CHP Officer Wally were attempting to extricate the driver. Just as we began spraying the tanker with foam retardant, it blew into flames. The driver was pulled to safety, Ben suffered singed eyebrows but CHP Officer Wally burned to death. There’s no earthly explanation for what happened here tonight but I’ve seen it before. Agents like Ben never forget losing a fellow officer. When their time to die comes, they prefer it occurs doing the job they love and choose to vanish forever into the wilderness. The San Diego Commander of the Border Patrol and I go way back. I’ll call him tonight and explain everything. He’ll understand”. Captain Johnnie and I walk down the bluff to our vehicles. Captain Johnnie waves as Engine 44 returns to the firehouse. I park Ben’s chase car alongside the meridian and will retrieve it later.
   I return to the checkpoint confused. I stare at the star filled sky and learned tonight life holds many secrets. I miss Ben and Ruger and will never forget them. I hope they are together in a better place. Across the freeway a lone coyote exits the brush, sits and stares directly at me. Our eyes meet for a moment and the coyote belts out a howl before returning to the wilderness.

End.

Poetry By Robert Beveridge

Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry just outside Cleveland, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Pulsar, Tessellate, and Scarlet Leaf Review, among others.


The Amazing Slam Diet

eat
your
poems


Driven

press your face
against the glass
and watch
this fire

burn
in this cruel
sunset

the mortal remains
of a thousand thousand
howling birds

so much time wasted

but so many emancipated

sun reaches out
over water
and ensnares them

watch
if you can
and know
they are free


Leave the Obscure

All is not art.
All
is what we ask
our lovers
when we lie
next to them,
faceless

All lies dead
in the last
vestiges of riot
buildings burned
around it

the sound
of a lute
in the distance

Poconos Manifesto 1992

We are trapped in a world without gangsters
and it seems to me
the lights in all the flowers have gone out
there is a dog sewn to this highboy
in front of your house
but it still moves about with relative ease

I can see your form in a silhouette behind your blind
you are lit from the back
and as you take off your blouse
for one instant your breasts are visible through that fabric

and I fall in love with you again
for the two hundred eighty-seventh time

as I pat your dog absently it is shedding blue tears
I call it a man
and rub its tears on my face
sing as I walk away

A Portrait of the Artist

Open your throat
with the silver razor
blade
silence springs
forth, you begin
speaking backwards

the woman caresses
your throatsmile under
the red light
she wears a dress
of your blood

you stitch your lips
with duncolored
yarn, wench
of dreams
now the hole
in your throat
talks for you

now you have learned
to sing from the diaphragm

Red Wings

I

They face each other, circle.
Brandish clubs. No feints here,
the object is to kill. Quick
and clean.
      The winner
does not matter, except
to the prize.

When only one remains, he dips
his fingers in the loser's blood,
claims his bride. Traces red
along the line of jaw, the lip,
one dollop in the center of the forehead.

The wedding is complete.

II

I rest my head
on your thigh. These times,
when you feel the moon's pull greatest,
you seem as pleasured by my tongue's
caress, but still you ask
what urges me to seek
oral shelter in you then. I shift,
turn my face to the ceiling;
you sit up. “Oh, God, honey,”
you laugh, “your face
is covered.” I touch my fingers
to my cheek, examine them.
Such redness.
“All this blood.”
You trace its path
from ear to lip. I dot
the center of my forehead
and you kiss me.

Solitaire

All writing is shit

ghosts flow through me
but I cast them out
digest the excrement
on the pages
of my father

not worth
the flatulence of pigs

not axiom
theorem

postulate works of art
and destroy Picasso

push the words of Foucault
through the shredder

seduce the Mona Lisa
and blacken her lips
Hartzell Hartzell
sound is all knowledge
urrr grrr
debase to animalia
the womanroot of feeling
debase

not derogatory but inspirational
these emotions are all
cah cah

and in these words of non
alive on bread and alcohol
we reside

we bite god
in his clemency
and he pulls the crab nebula trigger

Cabaret!
Cabaret!

Rolling in einst├╝rzende
neubauten
the architecture
of the homeless

strike that
it made too much sense

seven-page manifestos are too long
for the gestalt of gestation
and even to read

Arp collapses, unfolds
dog collapses, unfolds

dogsbody decomposes
the bloody
Someday in sharp focus

rip the locks themselves
from their anger!
Moloch is dead
dead dead dead
and only the god
of the Corpse
stands extreme
in his beauty

he is exquisite
decayed and angry
an ogregrrrgrrr
leafing the battlements
and hell! the final frontier

all that is left
when swords slice through the gods
is writing
excrement

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Poetry By Cliff Saunders

Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in Serving House Journal, Five 2 One, Avatar Review, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and Whale Road Review. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he works as a freelance writer.


FEVER DREAM

Yearning for unity, I whistle at the county fair
at just the right time and the hunt begins


for a bridal kimono. I baffle gulls everywhere
with nursery rhymes. It’s what I do.


For the first time, I need to strike a swimsuit
with a biscuit because I feel alienated,


anxious as a blocked artery. Crying and scared,
I thrash like a fish among rows of crash victims.


I bounce past three sisters beating the street
with Christmas trees but see no clouds


just over the horizon. I topple a barricade
of jellyfish and slip by a little robot


ruined by a mud ball. Along the way,
I collide with echoes of immaculateness.


Such snow and ice I have never seen!
I finally feel like I am alive again, soul


of blue and still in love with the wind.
Am I some rabbit hole? Some pumpkin king?


I’m just elated that great hair blooms
in every sea. As clouds gather, I finish


covering roses with metal whistles.
I rise before the storm gives voice


to its grief and reach for the sacred:
a glass of ice clouded by blue acid.


GREEN PIANO, WHISTLING HEART

The sun is coming toward the abyss like an angel
illuminating a world without words. So it begins.
I flex my emerging cloud warrior and think
of owl myths, of a wild sea so secret that


children can’t make themselves invisible.
I bond with the changing tides creeping up,
but summer keeps filling me with wind, then
spins away like a football on a soccer field.


The landscape burbles, awaiting its first chapter.
The fog comes dropping more slowly through the heavens.
I search for the son of Poseidon in a young girl’s eyes
but can’t hold her on the hill where satellites stop


and honor the bird songs of the dispossessed.
Along the canals, I collect (another one!)
crisp, sweet chestnuts, red before a storm.
I enter a season of grief carrying lionfish


and justifiably proud of the leaves frozen inside me.
As always, I collide with a piano because it’s gone green.
I have nothing to hide but the machete of dementia.
Yes, I’d rather eat rats on a jungle island


than a serpent’s tooth feel sorry for me.
I am not going to be bullied by God and his merry men
who stutter. I couldn’t mourn, or the dead rest,
if mountain lions lost faith in themselves.


I need help, for the planet itself wants to die.
It’s snowing in the lap of a child and nowhere else on earth.
My heart is whistling in the wind like a hot pot
of pawpaws, persimmons, and soft lemons.


Should I dump a boatload of clich├ęs in the Minnesota River?
Should I start a risky mirage? Repeat after me:
The shelter of memory goes dark in June.
The door to knowledge is losing its fur.


DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE

I hate my grass, and it hates me
more than a pink skirt on a witch.


How can I get a deeper shade of blue
in my lawn? I’m just totally lost.


The lizard in the house has created
a conspiracy against me.


The shuddering beast wakes me
with his big mouth while pondering


an afternoon of drift and mastery.
As the lizard lands with a thud


on the floor, I pursue a giant snail
around the edge of the porch,


but my heart is driving me nuts,
and I carve it up into toothpicks.


This is my home—I could turn
into an old putter, an abused


French mastiff, a hard autumn,
a newly opened book.


For a sweet few hours, I probe
the batting cage of the self


with a restless intellect, then
ride off into the real world


on a bicycle wrapped in mink.
Just doing my job, man.


THE TALE SPUN

Once upon a time, there was a story that took 2,000 years to create. It was a beautiful snail
that gave life to the imagination. No doubt, it was about slaves eating gills to survive. No
doubt, it was about the fruit of ancient Pompeii. Was that a brown map on its back or a big
moth? It was the best kiss, it was an act of devotion, and why was it there? Because the doll
of stone bled water and killed a dream, too. There’s more to this story than an apple staring
at its own end. It began as a parade and ended in flames on the tidal flats. Yes, it was a long,
hot, lonely road into the forbidden town of amputees. It just moved by its own force up a
children’s book like a glove. Pulling the whole story together was a top-secret balloon full
of Olympians. It blew my mind, listening to them sing of the animals that stand like granite
in the rolling hills. Throwing bread on the water, I expected such a lonely word to outshine
the sun, but the truth of the story made me cry with its street of vibrating strings. I thought
it was forever a frontier so weird it was otherworldly. I wanted to write a story of chess, to
utter light and taste no hint of time. It was my idea to have one last moment upon a time when
the door of spring found itself in the twilight. Once upon a time, when the world was a tornado
of words chugging back to life.