Jake Sheff is a major and pediatrician in the US Air Force, married with a daughter and three pets. Currently home is the Mojave Desert. Poems of Jake’s are in The Cossack Review, Jet Fuel Review, Marathon Literary Review, and elsewhere. He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible. Feel free to connect with Jake on Instagram, and also on Twitter.
Seven Minutes in Heaven
By way of circumnavigating
The closet, I laid my own cheapness
On Rebecca, whose breath portrayed
Lips that wrecked the whole
Crew. I mean, it was dark, so what
I saw was my grandpa and his old dogs
Walking in the sun, his denim overalls
Replaying the canvas sails’ billowy
Production on the shores of Plymouth
Rock. The dogs’ barks were muted
By the memory’s bright light
And tinnitus, without disrupting
The Backstreet Boys and murmurings
Outside the ineluctable closet
Doors, presiding with audible
Orthodoxy and salient dismay, like
The image of my mother and the nuns
On All Saints’ Day. And on the brink
Of revisiting the voice of regret,
Rebecca’s hand on my shoulder, and
A scratch to commandeer around
The awkward (henceforth priestly)
Sensation that arose. Like the up-splash
At the bottom of a waterfall, my late
Brother’s odor lifted from the sleeveless
Station I borrowed, wherein Rebecca’s
Hair launched her register of death.
In Lieu of Morality
Unlike anything that came before, Brad
Sat in the easy chair, not bothered by
The unkempt hours that maintained him
In utter disbelief; a symbiosis born
Against the grain. The parasitic nature of
His cunning interspersed, by leaps and
Bounds, between the hillsides often found
In childhood memories, like the shag green
Carpet I played on: Lincoln Logs and
Fire-trucks to carry off some ancient hurt;
Unqualified, but maybe autoimmune.
The football game was barely on the TV
Once, and Brad spilled some beer. As if
He had a rearview calculator, it was deemed
My fault, and mom, at her salon, was
Nowhere near to guide his hand into her
Skirt, or slap me lightly for his sake
And mine. And then his cigarette came
Down onto my skin and put the fear
Of God into his eyes; I screamed so
Fucking loud, a couple men came in
And beat on Brad so hard it threw his
Tattoos on the wall, and shocked
His teeth and hair into submission, ‘cause
They were gone before the men were.
The easy chair was rinsed with
Irretrievable things of Brad’s, and all
My screaming cost the night a star
Or two. The apple tree out back was
Prattling about the scandal to the holly,
Defiant and insecure beneath the starry
Well about to rain down definitions.
All Hail! Jake Sheff’s chapbook, Looting Versailles (Alabaster Leaves Publishing, 2013), is available via Amazon for your reading pleasure. Simply click on the cover image below to learn more . . .
Andrew C. Brown (a.k.a. The Grandad from Knowle West), is a spoken word performer residing in one of the top hundred areas in the UK based on deprivation factors. Published on three continents, he is a recovering addict, an ex-prisoner, and “educator” of middle-class audiences on the realities of life on the estate. To learn more about Andrew, please follow him on Facebook.
She walked slowly, flanked by her elders
their hands controlled her tiny shoulder
she looked uncomfortable, uncertain
She knew he was here somewhere, it was
him who brought her to the wasteland
she knew he would protect her
Her smile came upon paternal recognition
she lifted her pig-tailed head in hope
as she excitedly saw his approach
She appeared upset as he walked past her
when she turned to mouth a plea
his stride deliberately quickened
He had come from the shiny white caravan
grin twitched, nose rubbed, head bowed
shirked shoulders, closed ears
He buried hands deep within soiled pockets
fingering powdered bags and folded notes
he felt comfort in his thoughts
No guilt seen to crease his contoured face
acceptance of active addiction peaked
and pinched his perambulation
His concentration persuaded him to ignore
dichotomy of laughter and shrill shriek
he paused, just for a moment
Rain hesitated scared to sully virgin mud
dirt dallied then dripped upon the door
another scream split certainty
Andrew notes: “I once worked with a young woman in a prison who told me how her father pimped her for drugs. This poem is dedicated to her. She had a lovely smile that lit the prison wing; she had also unfortunately seen her sister perish in a house fire. It was only within the community of a female prison that she felt a sense of belonging. I do not judge her for her crimes, but imstead salute her for her immense courage and fortitude.”
The spoon always tripped me up
waiting to be heated alongside
the thankful grains. Always
a treat to knock me sideways
this way and that, front and back
that damned spoon is never worth
the metal that made it, took away
any mettle I might have possessed
swapped sobriety for paranoia
in an instant hit and trip crash
and burn with temperature
that was always correct.
That spoon neatly edged
slightly singed cradler of dreams
took me from reality of nightmare.
Why should I expect to resume at the same point I left?
I don’t mean geographically but dosage.
Recipes instruct depth of spoon usage to create
correct texture and flavour;
prison terms dictate susceptibility to death.
All Hail! An accomplished performance poet and recitalist, Andrew C. Brown has had his work recorded at Raise the Bar, a regularly held reading series in Bristol, UK. To watch Andrew’s recorded performance, please click on the image below . . .
Also, please visit Facebook to learn more about the Raise the Bar reading series.
Alan Britt has published over 3,000 poems nationally and internationally in such places as Agni, Christian Science Monitor, Kansas Quarterly, Letras (Chile), Levure Littéraire (France-USA-Germany), Midwest Quarterly, Minnesota Review, and Tulane Review. He interviewed at The Library of Congress for The Poet and the Poem in January 2013. He has published 16 books of poetry and teaches English/Creative Writing at Towson University.
Staring at the New Millennium
Here I stroll
through the dog days of life.
New pair of shoes
won’t put a spring in my step.
Several half-worn pairs
crouch beneath my dresser
as though feeding on dusty teats
dangling from the void.
Piglets, these shoes.
From an armoire
dying to get out,
anxious to be liberated
from mundane darkness.
So it goes—
with nose of life
to the grindstone
no time for the new.
in faded jeans,
with or without fleece hoods,
with or without the evening news.
But the man next to me
says rise above chlorinated water,
rise above concrete smokestacks,
power lines & ash.
This man says eat life,
paint things green
& crawl inside the heart attack of a symbolist.
This man tells me
to abandon supermarkets
& seek nourishment in fibers of light
falling from wheat stalks.
Says he began as a driftwood-colored bird
grooming the eyelids of crocodiles,
crocodiles that evolved
into replacement hearts for the symbolists.
Ha! (I bemuse),
I must be nearing the end of something—
the old millennium,
the silver millennium,
the diamond encrusted millennium,
or perhaps the pecan flesh of the bronze millennium.
So I try a bite
of the nutty stuff
that some unfortunate lives depend upon,
then ask the man to lead the way.
He stares at my overfed shoes
& commences to weep.
All Hail! Alan Britt’s full-length split with Silvia Scheibli, Parabola Dreams (2013), is available for order via its publisher, Bitter Oleander Press. To learn more, simply click on the cover image below . . .
Matt Duggan is slated to perform his first reading in New York City this April with George Wallace and Pete V. Dugan. Winner of the 2016 Void Poetry Prize for his poem, “Elegy for Magdalene,” you can read selections of Matt’s poetry at Algebra of Owls, Black Light Engine Room, Carillon, Ink Sweat and Tears, Into the Void, The Journal, and elsewhere. To learn more about Matt, please follow him on Twitter @mjduggan71.
Drinking with Hemingway
Break the midnight
when the summer chrome melts into a cacophony of voices,
where neon alleyways smell of cigarettes and cooked lemon grass.
Dealers with Oxycontin smiles
street walkers tout the same space that their great ancestors
once paced for their very own pleasure seeking,
enter into a bar that looks like a brothel with the curtains drawn
where cocaine is exchanged in palms outside
and the whores are busy sweating in doorways and local hotels.
I feel a oneness with Hemingway after my fourteenth sip of absinthe,
the wallpaper a cabinet of empty green bottles
ceiling peeling in dark mahogany as a swinging chandelier turns black and white.
The many faces add colours to the room,
come break the midnight with me watch the vessels clamber to madness,
see what he saw from these tables in blood bleached oak.
Watching Cobwebs on Skirting Boards One Friday Night
Down on the floor
another ten minutes to forget—punch marks in plaster
covered by Black and White pictures of infants
watching cobwebs on skirting boards one Friday night.
Notice what needs to be cleansed
using blusher to hide the wedding ring bruise
never remembering the kitchen battle marks
where hurt is hidden from pride reassembling a trembling beat in the heart.
Bites that tattooed the arm hair like lipstick traces
bubbling under hard skin—
when morning reveals the aftermath
denial is the response from the rage she caused and brings every Friday night.
The Glass Man
A tired man made of glass wakes from his unmade bed
we see into his life through his transparent skin,
a witness to all the tears that he gathers and sheds.
We see every day what’s inside this glass man’s head
hourly notifications on his banal and meaningless life
the thoughts and desperation of a man wanting to be liked.
We watch the cracks in a glass man.
The wanderings to the clockworks of his mind
we watch and can almost write what the glass man is thinking.
What saturates the skin
from the blood that’s written in the sand?
A tired man made of glass turns to a world
where everyone has chipped away a piece of him
held the same mirror to their own lives,
believing that no one else would see his reflection.
All Hail! A recipient of the Erbacce Prize for Poetry, Matt Duggan’s first full-length collection, Dystopia 38.10 (2015), is available via Erbacce Press. Simply click on the cover image below to learn more . . .