Feature Poet: James Kowalczyk

James Kowalczyk was born and raised in Brooklyn but now lives in Northern California with his wife, two daughters, and four cats. His work has appeared in numerous publications both online and in print. He teaches English at the high school and college level.

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Subway Etiquette 1

West 4th Street-Washington Square Street Station
the A train going uptown at 2:30 am
I board, scan the empty seat theory in play
and assume my position
sitting
maximum distance
from the other four solitary strap-hanging souls
already in the car

86th Street
the proverbial lost tourist
big brown suitcase in hand
unawares
stands alone
looks at each of us
our eyes meet his
a nano-second
stolen
from our reading

125th Street
Trouble One and Two board
eyes scan 360
body language belies hostility
brown suitcase oblivious
approached on both sides
in a blink from the corner of my eye
a shock of red
his nose bleeds onto his white shirt
stunned
brown suitcase snatched

145th Street
doors open
Trouble One and Two exit
doors close

next stop
168th Street

*

Subway Etiquette 2

GG train going to Coney Island
pulling into Smith-9th Street Station
summertime baseball practice destination
one other passenger on the middle afternoon local
asleep and swaying like grain stalks in the wind

Trouble One and Two enter
sweep glance and glare
I seep into the corner seat
bulging pocket on grain stalk attracts Trouble
they sit on either side

Trouble One nudges . . . nothing
nudge . . . nothing
Trouble Two straight razors grain stalk’s pocket
Jacksons, Grants, Benjamins in a thick wad

next stop 7th Avenue
Trouble One and Two exit

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Subway Etiquette 3

A train express uptown going to
my mid-morning college class
in a semi-crowded car

at 59th Street a five-percenter
in white skullcap and white robe gets on
and solicits his black soap, incense, body oils
and propaganda, looking left and right at select clientele

I am in the corner seat reading
as he nears
he makes eye contact
smiles briefly
I look down at my book

other world aromas
as he stalls before opening
the door to the next car
I look up and he says:

“Don’t I know you?”
his eyes search my face
“I don’t think so” I say
“Yeah, yeah, I know you . . .
you the devil”

he goes through the door
next stop
125th Street

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All Hail! If you happen to be a California resident, and you’re looking to get hitched, Minister Kowalczyk of the Universal Life Church is here for you. All couples welcome.  Click on the image below to learn more . . .

Previous Feature: Sudeep Adhikari

Sudeep Adhikari is a structural engineer/lecturer from Kathmandu, Nepal. His recent publications include After The Pause, Anti-Heroin Chic, Beatnik Cowboys, Fauna Quarterly, Jawline Review, Kyoto, Poetry Pacific, Red Fez, Silver Birch Press, Vox Poetica, Yellow Mama, and Your One Phone Call.

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Sloping Faces of Liquid Mirror

I want to buy me some rain. I want those
terracotta curves to
eat the sky in a single bite;
a love bite, a bite that doesn’t bite.

I want that blue infinity
to see my balls from underneath.
Today, I want to be the sky of the sky.

Inversions, reflections and projections.
Bend it like a Möbius Strip. Make glazed
doughnuts from ivory towers of mirrors on acid.

I want an other-reality; in the shape
of faceless dough, which my mother is
going to bake for dinner tonight.

*

A Glass-House of Denial

You are always walking on the razor’s edge,
on a thin line separating suffering from unrealized
simulation of glassy veils,
to room your  self-comforting disillusionments

of a painless cubicle.

From my window, I see pink and punk slopes of
impermanence, and wet mirrors reflecting
many dreads of melting infinites. And a tired old face
slowly morphing into a new dream,

which is not yet a sell-out.

Death is not the end, but a life in the shape
of haunting denials. Pain is right at the corner,
but have you loved enough

to fool the cruel noise of ticking clocks?

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All Hail! To learn more about Sudeep Adhikari, please read his interview at Walking Is Still Honest Press, conducted by Scott Thomas Outlar.  Simply click on the poet’s picture below . . .

And, be sure to enjoy some of Sudeep’s writings on the philosophy of science and religion, archived at NovelMasters.

Previous Feature: John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Cape Rock, Columbia Review, and Homestead Review, with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Poem, and Spoon River Poetry Review.

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Anna’s First Date in Years

Who would have thought
that she would welcome
the invader
after all these years
of sleeping with
the lights on,
of being too frightened
to go downstairs
and investigate one noise.

Who’d have figured
her head would drive out
all the fearful imaginings
of what a stranger might
do to her,
that a need would strike up
a bargain with the dread,
that the doorbell ringing
would presage such a different
kind of nervousness.

She’s journeyed back
from what will they do to me
to what will they think of me.
She’s looking in the mirror
not sinking into the bed sheets,
fixing herself up,
not locking herself down.

There’s a life at the door
that could add not subtract
from all it touches.
Sure he still might
steal her heart,
wound her deeply.

But he’ll be the first burglar
in years
that she takes from,
the first killer
to give her back her life.

*

Joe Average Watches the News

It’s on the news channel,
puppy trapped down a sink hole,
fireman’s lowered on a rope
to haul the Chihuahua up out of the muck
that half buried him.

Luckily, the little beast
licks the hands and face
of his rescuer,
doesn’t bite the poor man.

Otherwise, the scene
would have Joe Average
immediately wound up by
countries who hate us
and yet still get our donations
of taxpayers’ hard-earned money
or useless, lazy minorities
sucking on the public teat
and they can’t even speak English,
and his own ungrateful kids
who don’t realize all that sacrifices
their parents made.

Luckily,
the puppy merely yaps a little,
in whatever the canine version
of English is
and no doubt goes on through
the rest of its life
remembering that fireman
as the greatest human being who ever lived.

Joe opens a beer,
stuffs his mouth with chips,
sits back on his couch,
is content with life
until another news item decides otherwise.

*

August Ends with a Train Crossing

Turtles bask on silver rocks.
A leap, a splash,
brown water can’t contain its fish.

Leaves cling to trees,
overripe and heavy.

Here and there,
we spy the shreds of human occupation,
crumpled paper, broken bottles,
the name of someone called Trudy
forged on a stone.

A snake wiggles across
the stream,
head raised just enough
for calm to crack.

We walk the trail
along the bank,
under the bridge
just as the train crosses.

It’s the end of August;
darkness of the days ahead
is wearing on lights of now.

Blue smoke plumes
send a message to the sky.
We’re passed on all sides
by the shudder of trestles.

*

There’s Someone for Everyone

Go to where they congregate.
Take up some place
where you can observe unobserved.
No lies, no bribes,
no displays of masculine power.
Be patient, endlessly so if need be.
And humble: no waving your fat wallet,
no touting your work prospects,
no pants so tight, your virility
pounds like a heart.
Be soft-spoken, even silent.
Love them, respect them from afar.
Eventually, they’ll notice you.
They’ll say. “God, I hope I never get stuck
with a guy like that.”
Be a guy like that.
And yes, put on something sticky.

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All Hail! Midnight Lane Boutique is dedicated to the memory of Joe Dunn, actor, impresario, poet, publisher, and friend.

         

          We will meet again   

          one day, we will

          gather at the river

          (Paterson perchance)

Robert Creeley 

 

 

Previous Feature: Kristen Williamson

Kristen Williamson is currently a Graduate in English Literature and Creative Writing at Binghamton University in New York, where her fields of study include poetry and fiction. She has been featured in Slink Chunk Press, The Stray Branch, The Zine and others.

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Verbal Abuse

I traded stares with a woman
with the darkest green eyes
that seemed to say,
“I’ve been there too,
hold tight,”
as you moved toward me
and strangers just looked on.

*

Sharp Edge of Picture Frames   

I once told you
I didn’t like to fight.
I’m sure I smiled
the smile I always smile
when I’m telling a lie.
I want to smash the dishes
and the picture frames
that hold bittersweet memories.
I want to feel
you bleed
in front of me.

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Power Struggles

I lift my head from your pillow
to watch the leaves fall from their silk roots.
Your chest caves in and out against the mattress,
the sheets tangled between your thighs.
Sunlight streams from the window
and kisses the back I claw
when I’m under you,
my bare feet slipping on your silk sheets.
I dig my fingertips along your spine
and listen for an angry “fuck” to assault my ears.
I rest my mouth on your shoulder
and sink my teeth into your skin;
the stinging of your flesh
falls from your mouth in a growl.
I can’t help but want you more
when you roll on your back
and let me map my favorite parts
of your chest
with hands no longer timid.
I press you harder into the bed.
Your teeth clench.
I pull my shirt over my head,
grind my hips against you—
I love the way you look­
when I’m on top of you.

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The Flood of August

I soak up the gallon of water,
the one you threw at me
because I had an attitude
after you called me a cunt.

I sit with bath towels trying to stop
the water that spreads
over the dining room floor.

You walk by and knock a chair
into the water.
It splashes me in the face.

I won’t cry—
not with you standing there.

“Defeated,” I repeat to myself,
“don’t let him see you defeated.”

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All Hail! Edited by Kristen Williamson, Rachel Speciale, and Heather Humphrey, Street Light Press publishes poetry on a monthly basis, and is currently seeking submissions. Simply click on the logo below to learn more . . .

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