Going Out at Night, poetry by Ron Houchin

Everyone goes out at night for the other thing.
Alphonse for the annihilation of alcohol, looking
toward the first pint, the way a sunflower leans

toward sun, but gets into a taxi. Sherwood, in love
with misery first, Carol second, slips out to jam
with his band, “Elroy and the Others,” sings

“Oh, Carol” first thing. Beatrix for coffee, sits hours
in her neighborhood diner half-pretending to be
in a famous painting she had on a calendar

of nighthawks, all of whom leaned at a counter,
drinking coffee as if peaceably waiting for morning
to let them out. This doesn’t help Bea,

so she hurls her heavy white mug across the tables
to bound off a wall of framed boxers’ photos.
She’s tossed out again onto the street but punches

Otto, the proprietor, in the gut when he drops
her on a bench. He pukes his last cup of coffee
near her sneakers. She walks home with no thought

but sleep. Alphonse and Sherwood snore through
their doors as Beatrix treads past to bed, happy
to stay out later, asleep already, dreaming sunflowers.

 

 

RON HOUCHIN lives on the banks of the Ohio River across from his hometown, Huntington, West Virginia. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Southwest Review, New Orleans Review, Kansas City Star, Poetry Ireland Review and many others. His newest book of poems, The Man Who Saws Us in Half, from LSU Press’s Southern Messenger Poets Series was awarded the Weatherford Award for poetry in 2013.

Mr. Siegel’s Sharpshooters: First Battle, poetry by Andrea Wyatt

 

1/

Mr. Howard arrived during seeding
to exhort the young men of Ripley
to take up arms; he wore wired-rimmed glasses
and city clothes, dusty from his long journey.
He carried a strongbox and a pile of broadsides.

Your country needs you!
Protect the western frontier!
Free uniforms, Free firearms!
Stand up with President Lincoln!
Twenty-five dollars bounty to Enlist!
Cost what it may, Our nation must be saved!

Mr. Howard sat at a makeshift table that Saturday
in front of Jenkin’s Feed Lot,
and Frankie and Louis and I signed up;
Mama cried and said I was too young, I wasn’t to go,
Frankie’s Daddy beat him—who will work the fields, he raged.

Louis, who was an orphan, and lived with Reverend Loomey and his wife,
stood up at Methodist meeting and said he was going to war;
the girls rushed to his side afterwards,
where he stood by the lilacs, and said how brave he was.

My sister Maggie started knitting him socks.
I will be back for you in a fortnight, said Mr. Howard,
meanwhile practice your march, and then he left
on the next stage to Washington.

Weary with dread as daylight looms
behind a stand of American elm,
leafed out, filled with the dawn’s light,
we are preparing for battle

It’s August now, and it’s been a hot summer,
but there’s a breeze this morning,
and as we brush the dirt from our uniforms,
we talk about fishing along the Kanawha.

2/

Captain comes to check our feet.
Make certain there’s no holes, he says,
a soldier can’t fight on sore feet
and have a bite to eat, boys,
a soldier can’t fight without a bit of meat

When the drummer starts to beat, we take our place on line
rifles to the ready, shoulders touching;
three sets of eyes strain to see the firing command,
the bells ring out and firing commences

We take our time to aim and a rhythm overcomes us,
aim, fire, load, aim, fire, load and the air
gets heavy with dust and smoke

My fingers ache, holding the rifle tight,
and grit in our eyes makes it hard to see the enemy
who’ve crouched down low in shallow holes
they’ve dug, and our ears ring from the
din of screams and guns

The drummer carries water to the boys on the line
and once an hour the captain comes by;
we’re holding on, boys he says, we’re holding on,
I believe they are retreating, I believe we’ve got them licked.

It’s closer to dusk than dawn when the battle is done,
and we stretch our sore legs and look around
to see who’s left and see who’s down

The medics hurry into the field with stretchers
to carry the bloody wounded away, we take off our boots and socks
as Frankie begins to sing:

“All quiet along the Potomac tonight,
where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming,
and their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
and the light of the campfires are gleaming.
A tremulous sigh as the gentle night wind
thro’ the forest leaves slowly is creeping,
while the stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
keep guard o’er the army while sleeping.”

 

 
ANDREA WYATT is the author of three poetry collections. Her work has appeared lately or is forthcoming in The Copperfield Review, Gargoyle and Gravel. Wyatt’s poem Sunday Morning Gingerbread was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart. She works for the National Park Service in Washington, DC and is associate editor of poetry journal By&By.

How Hank Does It, fiction by Jack C. Buck

 

I’m not going to tell you how to do it. I know as much as you. Though, making a list can help. I make lists. The lists are all rather comparable, for the most part. Admittedly, I’m too predictable as it. It’s in my best interest to look after what I add or claim to these lists. Comes with age, loss of love, the customary highs and lows of life, and making sure you don’t find yourself doing things you don’t want to be doing. Like, making Friday night plans three weeks in advance when you have no idea how you will be feeling on a particular evening at 7 o’clock, 21 days from now. I used to go along with plans like that, not anymore. What else, watching other people to see they do it can help as well, if you come across the right person that is.

When making a list consider things like the shockingly large amount of time that is spent just repeating indistinguishable conversations from one person to the next when your neighbor counts on you to consistently agree to a conversation each time you physically see one another. I once half-calculated the time, even wrote it down somewhere. It’s why I now wait till nine at night to go down to do my laundry, and why I park my car three blocks away even though I have an accommodating parking spot out back in the alley behind the house. These math computations are also when I decided I liked Claire and Hank. They live downstairs in the basement apartment. Have so for the last six and half years. They have an arrangement with our landlord Bettie. Really no point, more of a hassle than anything to look elsewhere – that’s what Hank says. Claire’s always good for a couple cigarettes for when Bettie stops by to check up on things, and Hank cuts the grass in the summer and shovels the walkway in the winter. So, rent has pretty much stayed the same all these years for Hank and Claire. Stuff like that is good for people like us. We deserve the break, especially them.

Our other neighbors in the rented house, below my apartment and above Claire and Hank, we could do without, but those apartment units never keep any tenants for long. We are not what the new neighbors are looking for in neighbors. Before ever seeing or meeting us (Hank, Claire, and myself), young couples, or some drunk guy in his mid-twenties wanting to party, will rent units #2 and #3, assuming the other people, as in us, will be just as fun as them. Everyone has different means of fun. That’s a good thing. It’s the necessity of checks and balances in order to keep the world somewhat sane. For instance, take Hank’s idea of a good time, over the last 40 years of his life, the man has probably watched nearly 6,000 Los Angeles Dodgers games – not including the simulated seasons he manages during the offseason on his desktop and the countless hours spent in the online forum threads talking shop with other fans . I like baseball as well. Sometimes, when I can hear him shuffling around out back, I’ll throw on a baseball cap to take the garbage out. He doesn’t immediately point it out, but in his roundabout way he always gets to the subject of baseball. The way Claire smiles at me between drags of her cigarette makes me think she knows I wear the hat on purpose.  I’m interested in Hank’s ability to stomach an underperforming season by a favorite team. He has what it takes, I don’t. I know there’s a reason for that and I’m starting to believe I know how he does it.  Most of all, I like to hear out what he has to say about how life is going. Talking with him is better than any list of how to do life.

 

Years ago, while Claire was drunk on one glass of wine, she told me Hank spent two years in the service when he was 19. After putting in his time overseas, Hank didn’t go home, though. He travelled, stayed with friends, took on seasonal work wherever he felt like living. Claire’s mother had a bakery in Ireland. She doesn’t run the business these days. Don’t know if it was because of retirement or being forced to close shop due to finances. Either way, without fail, a couple times a year she mails Claire a box of homemade fudge. Perhaps with her mother’s knowledge, Claire gives the fudge to me. I think so.

Hank has never mentioned his family, but he likes hearing about mine. He tells of his friends’ names in his recollections. They seem like interesting people, people I would get along with. Hank did not have fun at war, but he did meet Claire while stationed off the coast of Ireland; and, I know, by the way they share this here life, in space and time, this is how he does life. I like Claire and Hank, and I think they like me too.

 

 

JACK C. BUCK lives in Denver, Colorado. He thanks you for reading his work. He can be found on Twitter @Jack_C_Buck

HOW TO MEET MARC CHAGALL by Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber

 

The house was filled with peaceful still and quiet water. She liked being in a water house, and swimming up and down the stairs, breast-stroking around. Look there! she can spin a cup over a saucer, and set a knife twirling that stays twirling, and the fish stay in their aquarium with its neon lava mountain, and she somersaults and spins among canted paintings of barns and bulls!

***

The day after the holiday, everyone is in town, and everyone in town is downtown, and everyone comes through Poor Herbie’s. She wasn’t going to go out that night; she was going to stay home and make turkey soup. Fuck it, she said. I don’t want to stay home. She decides drinks, Tanqueray & tonics at Poor Herbie’s. She walks into the saloon, and Cerberus’s smile rounds the corner of his face toward her before his head had begun to turn. Hades was already looking dead straight at her. It was intense.

***

Now that’s strange. Isn’t that Uncle Johnny? The skin at his hips peeled back, and all the ends of his bones are cut-paper artwork, the fancy Korean kind made with X-acto razors. The ends should look like brontosaurus bones, but they’re more like like nautilus shells, halved. Like that part of the ear. The cochlea?

***

Bog hopping in the swamp requires Wonder bread bags inside the socks. The game: grab a Foster’s oil can; find a sturdy vaulting stick; get from one side to the other without falling in. Bogs are tufts of grass. They look pretty sturdy. Eurydice was first to be up to the waist. Cerberus and Hades and Eurydice sat in the burned-out Chevy and then Hades took a picture. She loved that sweater, too.

***

Over there! Now she’s picking pears from the top of the tree by holding holding her breath and floating up. The pears are green, and there are ants up there, but not as many as bother at the peonies. She could hold the pear in her hand, and it was ballast enough to bring her back down, slow and nice. Toes, balls, heels, run.

***

Dom DeLoise’s pignola (say PEEN-yole) meatballs were sitting on the porch at Nana’s, with lasagna and garlic broccoli in some old cool-whip containers which were reused like Tupperware, and she said, you better take those clothes off or you’ll catch a cold. Nana’s swamp house, with the Avon room and — who ever heard of a gin brand called Reed’s — and that cockeyed cat BW dustmumping around. The tea was so hot — she wanted them to stay. They loved to stay.

***

That’s definitely Orpheus coming in the distance, because that pooch is with him. That crazy blue blood pedigreed Springer Spaniel. Oh he loved him so, with his wavy coat of fetters and ears and the snowballs in his paws. Orpheus is wearing traditional German clothing, maybe Austrian. He knows we sometimes have Oktoberfest parties. Orpheus has a lilt to his walk. He realizes today is not the Oktoberfest party. He and the dog leave. They are happy when they come, and they are happy when they go.

***

They went downtown, Manhattan, the Village, to an Art happening. There was a postage-stamp-sized ad for it in the paper that morning. They were like: assemble the squad. They dressed to the nines; they put lawn chairs in the van, they filled the van with friends and a cardboard box with Colt-40s and Champale. They tried to sit still, but cheap champagne that was so quiet in the bottle was getting loud and wild. Their team was dynamic. Whitey jumped on stage; nobody knew he wasn’t part of the act. Cerberus and his girl (remember the one who had that story about jumping off a roof, and her mom had to use the wrong end of a spoon to get the compacted mud out of her nose?) were brown-bagging it. Hades & Eurydice were in between kisses.

***

Holding out her hands in the dark, she thought the saints might touch them. She’d wait. Oh-ho! They were there, but the big Guy didn’t give them the okay. Not yet, He said. Her bedroom was a room that had fire licking all along the baseboards, a gas-lit fire, but oranger. It never made her afraid and the room was not actually burning. It wasn’t hot. It wasn’t scary. It was just fire.

***

Then they saw it in the window, that vintage clothing store not far from where Grampa Munster sold pizza and looked so crabby all the time: a faux-tiger coat. Rowr. The store was closed, but they knew the guy was in there. They rapped on the window. It was old glass and sounded brittle. The champale hadn’t pushed them to the point of breaking glass. He heard all right. Squad was making the please-please pleady faces, and everyone looked so good that he opened. Hades gave the guy $50 for a $35 coat and Eurydice put it on, and they ran hooping and hollering, her crushed velvet dress and his spit curl bravado embracing forearms like gladiators, then going underground, hair and coats whipping, Manhattan spurring, the whole city stretching over them, like somehow God or Skylab or Marc Chagall saw them in a fish-eye.

 

 

ANNE ELIZABETH WEISGERBER teaches literature and composition, and edits fiction at Indianola Review. She has work forthcoming in Tahoma Literary Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Vignette Review. She tweets @AEWeisgerber, and thanks Kathy Fish for prompting this piece.

 

 

2 Poems by James Croal Jackson

 

LOVE NOTE TO WOMEN I HAVE LOVED

 

when the twine grays, know
there is still a lettering
shaped in your glossed spiral.

I gargle Listerine your name
to the thrum of the galaxy
lodged in my throat,

there forever
behind my wolf teeth,
a song alongside you.

 

 

BRAZILIAN MUSIC ALL AROUND US

 

We danced to the Pandeiro

Struck, shaken palms
thumbed words in metal
places we could not fit into

In Rio how the wind would drape
whatever we were hiding,
blonde wind strangling the
açaí palms, cavaquinho in hand,
your rabbit cheek strummed,
wonderland don’t worry
about whatever worries you,
whisper this dream with me
in syncopated beats
until we get it right

 

 

JAMES CROAL JACKSON’s poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Columbia College Literary Review, Glassworks, and other publications. He grew up in Akron, Ohio, spent a few years in Los Angeles, traveled the country in his Ford Fiesta, and now lives in Columbus, Ohio. Find more at jimjakk.com.

DEAD DOGS by Robert James Russell

 

Jerry Meredith had been picked up two weeks back with nearly five pounds of medicinal-grade marijuana sealed in a section of PVC pipe. The witness, he later found out—the good Samaritan he was—had thought it seemed suspect, some man diving over from Windsor lugging a section piece of pipe. And the state trooper who had picked Jerry up had told him, “It’s concerned citizens like this that help us catch assholes like you.” There’s something true to that, Blake thinks, sitting on the slightly beat-up Starcraft SeaFarer, listening to the stinking waves of the Detroit River slap against the boat.

The SeaFarer, which he’d bought off Craigslist for just over two grand, was a correction to the problem posed by Jerry Meredith: How do you blend in? A diver swimming the length of the river acting flighty and lugging a section of pipe…yeah, they should’ve known it didn’t make much sense. But Blake, mid-forties and of average build, hair thinning, sitting on a boat at the cusp of dusk with a rod in-hand, cooler of cheap beer sitting on the floor beside him—all of this makes perfect sense. The boat—an integral part of the deception—was key: no heap of junk, but nothing too gaudy either. Had to look like he belonged so no one would think otherwise. Of course, the dead dog hiding under the old tarp behind him would be a giveaway that something wasn’t right, but that’s the risk in all this. And there always has to be one.

So Blake studies the sky, dawn quickly fading to night, stands and surveys the river. Alone, he unwraps the blanket, admires the dog—a mutt, looks like he has some Rottweiler in him—then the stitched-up gash running along its breast, black string glistening from the leaking fluids, its eyes already turning the color of milk. Blake sniffs, loud, then spits out into the river, picks up the dog and tosses it overboard. Once in the water he waits, watches it float back to the surface, and with his fishing net he pushes it west, southeast toward Detroit, and watches as the water carries it gently forward, bobbing amongst the waves toward the other side.

***

Blake pulls the Corolla into the steep drive, stops halfway up. At the end of it is a small three-sided shack, cords of wood inside tied together with blue string and piled on top of each other, a plastic half gallon milk jug with a slit sewn into it for people to deposit money.

Flanking the shack are single-wides with “For Rent” signs in the windows, the wooden porches melting away from disuse. Beyond the drive, up a small incline of brown grass, another trailer, a double-wide: alongside it an plump woman, her feet dangling in a plastic kiddie pool sitting with what looks to be her two daughters—hair as red as sunrise. A piece of corrugated sheet metal had been bent into a rough-looking circle, jammed into the ground nearby. A fire jumps up from within it, licks the sides as another one of the girls awkwardly dumps kindling into it. Stumps of birch and young oak are scattered about, the remnants of what once was a forest that came out to greet them, now torn down to sell to weekend warriors passing by in need of cheap campfire wood.

Blake gets out of the car, stretches his aching frame, checks out the road behind him—trees and lake beyond it—and clears his throat. It’s brisk, windy. Dreadful.

As he walks up the drive, he spots one of the girls, probably twelve, collect a feral black and white cat, cradling it in her arms so its legs dangle down at her waist. It doesn’t struggle, just stays still, waiting for it to all be over. It reminds Blake of all the cats he shot with his air rifle when he was a kid. Didn’t think much of it back then, but it sickens him now. Shame, he thinks. They at least deserved a sporting chance.

“The jug’s for the money,” the girl yells out as she approaches. “It’s two for five.”

Blake smiles. “Is your mom home?”

The girl studies him, the cat starting to squirm. She hoists it up onto her shoulders and it reluctantly obeys, tail flicking back and forth sharply. “You don’t want wood?”

“Just need to speak to your mom. Is that her back there at the pool?”

The girl—too young to know better—looks back at the plump woman who now has a hand visored on her brow, watching this stranger converse with her daughter. “Maybe,” she says.

Tired of playing, Blake breaks past the girl and hikes up the drive. The woman, unable to move at any sort of quick pace, shoos her children away—though they do little more than scatter nearby, watching and waiting. Seeing what reason this man has for being here.

“You Dolly?” Blake yells up at her.

The woman shifts. “Yeah. Who’re you?”

“You don’t know me.”

“Is that supposed to bring me comfort?”

“No,” Blake says. “Not in the slightest.” Pause. “I’m looking for Jordi. Was told I could find him here.”

The woman waits, licks her chapped lips. “What’s all this about?” Then, without waiting: “Jordi’s a good boy.”

Blake looks behind him at the children peering out from their hiding places. Wild children of the forest, they look. “Is it okay to talk business out here?”

“Sure.”

“Well, Jordi owes some money to some folks. I work for those folks, so he’s supposed to come with me, help me out.” Pause. “Pay off this debt of his.”

The woman licks her lips again, scratches her shoulder peppered with what looks like spider bites. Blake watches her, her swollen ankles cooling in the pool.

“Jordi!” Dolly calls still staring at the man.

A quick ruckus inside, then a boy appears, about twenty: skinny, pimpled and red-faced like his ma. Shirtless, he has a cross tattooed on his chest, no distinction between abdominals and ribs poking through paper flesh.

“What?” Jordi asks then, seeing Blake, his eyes go wide. “Shit.”

“Julian said you’d work for me today. You get my meaning?”

Jordi exchanges a look with his ma, then his sisters spread about. “Yeah, alright.”

“Good. Get your shirt and let’s go.”

Jordi sighs, disappears back in the trailer and returns a minute later with a sweatshirt and jacket, Detroit Tigers hat in his hands. “Let’s do it,” he says and kisses his ma on the cheek.

“You take care of him,” she calls out as they walk down the drive toward the Corolla. “He’s my only boy!”

***

They’re downriver in less than an hour, navigating an upper-middle class neighborhood along the banks of Lake Erie where dirty-wet sand meets a wall of hardwoods and evergreens, stopping finally at a two-story painted robin’s egg blue with a perfectly manicured lawn.

“This it?” Jordi asks.

“Yeah.”

“Shit. Must be nice.”

Blake ignores him, situates the car over under a great oak across the street shaded from the dying afternoon sun and shuts it off. “Now we wait.”

“When’d you cross over?” Jordi asks, not letting a single breath between them rest.

“Earlier today. Had a couple of stops to make.”

“Where’d you get the car?” Blake doesn’t answer, just stares at the road. Jordi starts rapping his fingers on his legs, fidgeting. “You hear all that talk about the new bridge? You think that’s going to happen?”

Blake smiles, amused at his attempt to be friendly. Oblivious, it seems, to the goings-on around him. “Yeah, I heard. And no idea. Your government is being a bit stupid about it, you want my opinion.”

“How’s that?”

“Last I checked we were willing to front all the money to get the thing made, you still said no.”

“Well, I don’t know much about it, but there’s probably a reason.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Why else, then?”

“Greed? So they can control the gateway into the States? Who knows. Take your pick. Anyway, I’m not really for the idea.”

“No? Why?”

“Another bridge means more security, especially right when it opens. More traffic going through, more security concerns. All that. Could be a problem for us.”

“Oh,” Jordi says, back to his fidgeting, legs this time. Then: “So what’s all this about?”

Blake pulls out a pack of Parliaments, lights one up. Inhales, exhales slow. He offers the pack to Jordi who grabs one eagerly. “You hear what happened to Jerry?”

“Got picked up, yeah.”

“Well, he was being stupid. We all were. Julian…” Blake thinks, takes another drag. “He’s got some great ideas, but some need some work, you know? That whole pipe shit was a bad idea. In hindsight, anyway. So we’ve corrected it, me and Julian.”

Jordi blows out a small puff of smoke and points his bone-thin fingers at the robin-egg blue house. “What, they in on it or something?”

“Just sit still, alright?”

“Yeah,” Jordi mumbles. “Whatever you say.”

“What.”

“Nothin.”

Blake reclines his chair, looks out between the houses at the lake, the setting sun flaring up the sky in oranges and reds. “We got time to kill,” he says. “So you got something to say, shoot.”

Jordi sniffs, bites his fingernails. “Still don’t see why you just don’t drive the shit over the bridge. They never check. One time my boy Cole and I were carrying some smack over from Windsor, decent amount, never even knew what was what.” He smiles, takes a drag. “Fuckin played em, you know? Was real easy.”

“You got lucky. And anyway, the amount of shit we’re trying to move…it’d get noticed. So we have to be smart. Anyway, border’s shut up tight like some puckered asshole, especially after Jerry’s stunt.”

“I know some guys,” Jordi starts, “and they know some truckers who drive over Ambassador like three times a week, and they told us for a price we could—”

“Just stop,” Blake says. “Been doing this a lot longer than you. Just do what I ask and your debt’s wiped. Alright?”

“Yeah, alright.” Pause. “Just, you know, wanna know if I’m going to get my hands dirty tonight is all.”

Blake takes a drag. “Count on it,” he says.

***

The dark had set upon them fast. Not a car had driven by since they had pulled up, the only fear Blake had, some cop or concerned citizen worried about them hanging about, but it was quiet. On the radio: Tigers getting pummeled by the White Sox. Jordi had nearly smoked the entire pack of cigarettes, only starting to complain about being hungry, about needing to eat so he won’t feel light-headed. And then, there it is: The yellow porch light of the house flashes on, off.

“It’s time,” Blake says.

“What? What’d I miss?”

“Just come on.”

Blake turns off the radio and the two exit the car slow, quiet, circle back around to the trunk where Blake removes a shovel, a hunting knife.

“What’s that for?” Jordi asks and Blake can hear the worry on his voice.

“Not for you.”

They cross the lawn single-file and follow it alongside the house, dark grass damp under their feet, until they get to the back yard: smooth patio stones dug into the ground, sets of ornate lawn furniture and a children’s manufactured play-structure, all of it butting right up against Erie, the dark waves chopping and biting in front of them.

Blake looks back at the house, a sun porch, sees a silhouette looking back. He raises a hand, waves. The figure does the same then returns into the house.

Jordi, watching, crinkles his face. “Is this some spy shit? Who is that?”

“No one you need to know. You just need to know he’s a friend doing us a solid.”

“And what’s this solid he’s doing?”

“Just head out toward the back there, near that vegetable garden.”

Once there, Blake stops, points: Rows of dried up stems and chocolate-colored soot are all that’s left save for a single white cross hammered into the earth. Jordi looks, sniffs, and Blake, sure he doesn’t understand, hands him the shovel.

“Huh?” Jordi asks.

“Dig.”

“Dig what?”

“The ground there, under the cross. And don’t ask any more questions.”

Jordi takes the shovel and jams it near the cross. He finds the soil, cold and spoiled, hard to break through at first, but once he does it only takes him a few shovels full to hit something. “This it?”

Blake, watching a speedboat on the water do circles, lost in the laughter from aboard as it pierces the dark quiet of night, comes to. “Yeah, pull that on up there.”

Jordi digs around the object and clears some of the earth away until he can see a dirty-white sheet wrapping something the size of a child. He opens it and is knocked back by the sight and stench: the rotting carcass of a Rottweiler-type mutt, eyes clouded over, body bloated with belch.

“Goddamn,” Jordi says standing up out of the way of the thing as if it might come alive. “What is this?”

“Profit.” Blake tosses the knife over, lands sheath-first into the ground. “Now cut. What we want’s inside. Get it?”

It takes a minute for Jordi to put it together and when he does he doesn’t say a thing, just wipes his nose with his forearm, plucks the knife from the ground and kneels next to the dog. He runs a hand along its flank and finds the sutures along the belly, starts cutting them away and has to turn his head as black sludge spills out. Once open he looks up at the sky and reaches his hand in the cavity, feels plastic and yanks it out. In his hand: a brick of marijuana.

“Holy shit!” Jordi yells. “What, this a pound?”

“Don’t shout, alright?”

“So what, you just kill the dogs and this guy buries em? How do they get here?”

“You don’t need to know, alright? What you need to know is there’s more in there you need to remove and I’d like to be out of here in ten minutes or less.”

“This is so smart, man. You and Julian are serious players. And really, I know I fucked up, but you ever need anything, want to give me another chance, I’m so in. So in.”

“Good to know,” Blake says pointing back to the dog. “Now back at it.”

He steps back, hands in his pockets, and looks back out over the water. He can no longer see the speedboat, can no longer hear the laughing, and wonders where they’ve gone. He then studies Jordi rooting around inside the dog excitedly and humming a song he can’t quite make out, and for a moment he thinks about this kid and all those rough sorts that’ll be pinched before they’re twenty-five—making life hard on their families, on those that know them—but he feels no pity for them because they chose this, they chose their lot and, even at the worst, they know what they’re getting into. But the dogs he suddenly pains for, rounded up and shot dead, no explanation given as to their sacrifice. And for that, he thinks, they deserve all the pity in the world.

 

 

ROBERT JAMES RUSSELL is the author of the novel Mesilla (Dock Street Press) and the chapbook Don’t Ask Me to Spell It Out (WhiskeyPaper Press). He is the co-founder and Managing Editor of the literary journal Midwestern Gothic and the founder of the online literary journal CHEAP POP. Find him online at robertjamesrussell.com and @robhollywood.

I Can Do It till the Cows Come Home, poetry by Jim Valvis

Slowly, one by one, cows
hoof toward the fence
and lock themselves inside

where the people,
who made that promise,
looking up from magazines

and their manicured nails,
try to recall that long ago day
they quit doing it.

 

JIM VALVIS has placed poems or stories in Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Natural Bridge, Ploughshares, River Styx, Southern Indiana Review, The Sun, and many others. His poetry was featured in Verse Daily. His fiction was chosen for Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.

Music: A Review of Mayhem’s Ordo ad Chao

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by JERENY TACKETT

 

Mayhem is, to say the least, a divisive band. There is no questioning the important role they played in both the first and second waves of black metal, particularly with their now classic album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

However, one can argue that they are more known for their actions outside the realm of music including but not limited to murder, suicide, arson, assault via severed animal parts, and just general criminal activity and mayhem (had to say it).

Their musical quality and sound have changed through the years due to a highly unstable line-up including at least 3 vocalists and the length of time between official full length releases. To give you some perspective on this, their first full-length, the aforementioned classic De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, was released in 1994, and their most recent full-length, Esoteric Warfare, was released in 2014. During this 20 year period the band has managed to put out only 5 full-length albums, the other 3 being 2000’s Grand Declaration of War, 2004’sChimera and the subject of this review, 2007’s Ordo ad Chao.

Between these releases have come a slew of live albums, splits, demos, and EP’s (the most notable of which is 1987’s Deathcrush, the band’s very first noteworthy release and 1997’s Wolf’s Lair Abyss). Many of these have included much of the same material along with a ton of live and rehearsal material of dubious quality.

To put it simply, Mayhem has no definitive sound. Each album has sounded different and has been released surrounded by such an apparently never-ending nebulous of low quality demo, live, and rehearsal material one has a hard time pointing to any one period of specific sound for Mayhem. Thus it has been with some understandable trepidation that fans have received each new full-length release.

De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was a venomous and dark but well-produced black metal album that set the tone for the strong second wave of black metal music (probably the most well-known and most documented period for black metal as the genre became internationally known as much for the music as for the violent antics of some of the bands). Grand Declaration of War was a strange experimental piece of music as different from black metal itself as it was from its predecessor. Chimera was somewhat of a return to a truer black metal style and was a strong if unspectacular release. The most recent album, Esoteric Warfare is another departure with a high quality production value, featuring somewhat of a blend of black metal, progressive metal, and industrial music.

The album that, in my estimation, stands out most from these other releases is 2007’s Ordo ad Chao. This album marked the return of vocalist Attila Csihar, his first album with the band since 1994’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The first thing that stands out about Ordo ad Chao is the fact that the album begins as if had already been playing and we are joining it in progress. There is no build or intro, just a sudden rush of music that sounds as if someone unmuted a song that had already been playing for a couple of minutes.

This first short song, A Wise Birthgiver, is a mostly instrumental intro to the album and sets the stage well for what is to follow. Without going into a song by song breakdown, a general tone for the album is one of ominous dread. Each song goes through various shifts in tempo including pauses that were they to be experienced in conversation would rate as uncomfortable. The production for this album is decidedly murky, almost demo quality. One can only assume that this is a stylistic choice as the albums before and after this one featured crisp production values. Some fans complained about the production, but to say that it adds to the atmosphere of the album is an understatement. The drums and bass stand out which is unusual as guitar is almost always the focal point in black metal. Attila’s vocals are at the front of the mix as well, which adds to the strength of the album as his vocals slither and wind their way through each song like a serpent rising through the murky depths of a swamp. He alternately growls, whispers, moans, and shrieks throughout this album like a man possessed. The sinister vocals add to the already dissonant and ominous atmosphere creating cohesiveness in an album that at first glance seems to lack cohesion.

The unifying factor about the various parts and layers of Ordo ad Chao is the fact that everything about it appears to be specifically designed to make the listener feel uncomfortable. Everything from the muddy production to the dissonant tempo shifts and pauses to the ominous vocals and lyrics add to the sense of lurking dread. The album’s lyrics deal primarily with enlightenment/awakening from a world ordered by strict religions, technology, and authoritarian values. The way to this awakening as reflected in these lyrics appears to be through a figurative and literal global shift, a dichotomy perfectly depicted by the songs Psychic Horns and Wall of Water. While Wall of Water and Anti feature more apocalyptic visions of global reset, others such as Great Work of Ages,Deconsecrate and Psychic Horns speak of a more psychical enlightenment (i.e. opening the third eye) primarily through rejection of both religious control and blind belief.

Mention of the Annunaki in the final two songs, Key to the Storms and Antihint at an anti-cosmic philosophy (for more on this look up anti-cosmic and Annunaki on Wikipedia). The album’s central songIlluminate Eliminate stands apart as it speaks of a dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the status quo and lyrically can be seen as catalyst for the songs before and after it. It is also the album’s longest song at nearly 10 minutes.

Ordo ad Chao ends as it began with no outro, just a sudden stoppage of music at the end of Anti as if someone hit the mute button mid-song. Overall, Ordo ad Chao stands as Mayhem’s most defining, cohesive, and relevant album since their first groundbreaking full-length, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. For those fans who abandoned Mayhem as having spent their artistic load in the 1990’s, this would be an apt re-entry point.

JERENY TACKETT is a father, husband, poet, pagan, nature lover, ghost hunter, scribe, cryptozoologist, noisemaker, codebreaker, and liberal. Sometimes NSFW. Find him on Twitter @JerenyTackett.

My Theory on the Indomitable Nature of Cleveland, Ohio

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by JOE KAPITAN

I’ve often heard my hometown compared to Rocky, the movie boxer. It’s not a good comparison. Rocky beat Apollo Creed in Rocky II, Clubber Lang in Rocky III, Ivan Drago in Rocky IV and Tommy Gunn in Rocky V. Cleveland keeps biting the canvas and struggling to its feet for more: KO’d in 1969 (burning river), again in 1978 (financial default), dropped by a quick jab in 1987 (“The Drive”), downed by implosion in 1988 (“The Fumble”), tripped up by Michael Jordan in 1989 (“The Shot”), floored in the late rounds of 1997 (Game 7 of the World Series),  savagely bloodied by the Recession of 2008 and publicly humiliated by LeBron James in 2010.

It’s a good thing that Cleveland’s DNA is steel. Some say steel made the city, but it’s the other way around. The city cut pieces from itself – Eastern European hands, Irish feet – and melted them down together in blast furnaces. Immigrant alloy.

Cleveland’s steel DNA contains traces of my grandfather. He was a first-generation American born to Slovak immigrants in 1904. His own father was electrocuted in a steel mill accident in 1916. It made the local paper. My grandfather dropped out of high school to support his mother; he got work as a mail boy at a local bank. He had progressed to teller by 1929, sleeping on tables in the back room during the Black Friday run on the banks. He retired from that same institution 44 years later, as head of the accounting department.

Cleveland is like that. It’s a car you saved from salvage and rebuilt with your dad or your uncle. Cleveland is that old dull knife that somehow cuts better than a new one. Cleveland spits blood and shouts, hey, hey you bastard, you beat me up last year and last month and last week but one of these days I swear I will catch you off guard and I will knock your fucking teeth out.

Another thing: in a movie about Cleveland, Cleveland would not be played by Sylvester Stallone. Or any real actor, for that matter. Cleveland would be played by that guy whom no one in Hollywood ever expected to make it as an actor.

***

JOE KAPITAN – Architect. Consultant. Cyclist. Husband. Dad. Neatfreak. College football fan. Microbrew drinker. Good teeth. Ugly feet. Writer of short fiction. Online publications (past and pending) include PANK, elimae, Smokelong Quarterly, Annalemma, Necessary Fiction, LITSNACK, Emprise Review, Corium, Metazen, The Northville Review, Eunoia Review, Apocrypha & Abstractions, and Used Furniture Review.

Long Ago, My Parents Were Illegal Immigrants, an essay by Donal Mahoney

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Joseph F. Mahoney, first row, third from left, circa 1920, age 16, all dressed up and looking older than 16. Photo courtesy Waterford County Museum.

 

In 1920, my father, 16, was a guest of the British government. He was a prisoner of their forces occupying Ireland at the time, a group called the Black and Tans.

One day he and seven other prisoners were brought out of their makeshift cells to dig their own graves in a small walled compound. As tradition would have it, they would be shot into their graves and other prisoners would be brought out to bury them.

By prearranged signal, the eight men dropped their shovels and broke for the wall. Bullets stopped five of them but the other three climbed over the wall and made it through the rural Irish countryside to freedom. One of the escapees eventually went to Australia, another to Canada. My father made it to America.

The story doesn’t end there, of course, and he only told it once. But even if you were only in eighth grade, as I was at the time, it’s not a story you forget.

Ironically, his first job in America was digging graves in New Jersey. Then he boxed professionally in New York and sang in Irish nightclubs. A sober Irishman, he never drank. He was an odd fellow in that respect and perhaps in some others as well.

After another boxer broke his nose he stopped fighting and emigrated from New York, this time to Chicago, where without skills or experience he was hired by the Commonwealth Edison Company. He spent 35 years there as an electrical lineman who specialized as a troubleshooter called out during big storms whenever they occurred anywhere in the State of Illinois. He had to retire earlier than he would have liked after absorbing 12,000 volts of electricity trying to save a rookie he was training from touching the hot wire that got him.

At some point he met and married my mother, an illegal immigrant from Ireland. She arrived in 1926 or so, got off the boat and found herself, for reasons she could never recall, in the middle of Harlem among the first black people she had ever seen. They helped her locate her cousin elsewhere in New York. In time she used her cousin’s paperwork to find jobs cleaning the houses of others who could afford to hire her.

My father, apparently illegal as well, didn’t stop for documentation, perhaps because the Black and Tans might have delayed his trip had they found him.

My mother was reared in rural Ireland with eight siblings in a thatched-roof cottage in the middle of a cabbage field. An English landlord owned the field.

My mother didn’t know she needed papers to come to America. She had just grown weary of harvesting cabbage and thought she might try her luck in America. Apparently she had no problem getting on the boat.

These two illegal immigrants had a good if not perfect life in Chicago compared with the life they might have had if they had remained in Ireland.

My father earned good money as an electrician and saved a lot of it to make it possible for his son to earn two degrees. He and my mother died, however, before seeing their first grandson win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University.

It’s just as well because my father would have been very unhappy to have a grandson studying in England.

Almost as unhappy as he was to learn many years earlier that he had spent all his hard-earned money to send his own son to a university and have him come home with two degrees in English.

Once again my father had proof that life isn’t fair.