VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dan Holt

Mini Bike

You had this

mini bike

with an engine

the size

of a lawnmower

It sounded

like a chain saw

buzzing

up and down

the street

The one time

I rode it

the fucking thing

shot out

from under me

when I hit the

accelerator

and smashed

into a tree

Your dad

drained all

the oil

and gasoline

and stashed

it in the rafters

of your garage

He said

it was

too damn

dangerous

That wasn’t

the last time

I ruined

the fun

Bestseller

Sitting on

an old couch

at the end

of someone’s

driveway

in the middle

of the night

Completely

out of our heads

on acid

Laughing in

that insane way

only acid heads

understand

The kind

that makes

your face hurt

the next day

Bouncing lines

off each other

Plotting out

a novel

Something

about vampires

and cemeteries

This is gonna 

be a

bestseller

Dig These Blues

(for Mark Borczon)

What is there

to say

about the blues

It lives

in a place

all it’s own

Sing the praises

of the bad news

Celebrate

your troubles

and get lost

in the glory

of twelve

lonely bars

The first

the fourth

and the

beautiful fifth

The relative major

tells the story

and the walk down

brings it home

Nothing Was Said

I had this

blinding headache

and everything 

she said

just made it worse

It was like she was

shouting

not in my ears

right

inside

my head

I grabbed her

by the shoulders

and shook her

Stop

screaming

Just

be

quiet

Then I saw

the look of raw

fear

in her eyes

and I realized

she hadn’t been

speaking

at

all

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: George Schaefer

WHEN THE WRONG GIRL GETS PISSED OFF BY A POEM

I was talking

to this young lady I know

and she was really pissed off

about a poem I wrote

about getting laid

in the back seat

of an old ’73 Buick LeSabre

I didn’t see why this one poem

in particular

was so upsetting to her

and then it dawned on me.

I was thinking, “Oh yeah,

now I remember that night. “

Now either I was really drunk

or her performance

just wasn’t up to par

It’s hard to write a poem

about something that

you don’t even remember

Unfortunately,

like all too many women (and men)

she doesn’t realize

that what’s up here (mind)

and in here (heart)

is worth infinitely more

than what’s down here (crotch)

ANARCHY IN QUEBEC

They were protesting and parading around Rue St. Denis and Rue St Catherine.  They were 

beating on drums and chanting their anarchist slogans.  The signs they wielded proclaimed the 

horrors of our society.  This was Anarchy French Canadian style on their afternoon march.  The 

local businesses seemed a bit dismayed although a few waitresses and bartenders commiserated 

with the cause.  I was just sitting there finishing my beer knowing that I needed to get through 

the crowd to move on to my next destination.  I figured I would just treat the anarchist parade 

like a conga line and get off when I got closer to my destination.  I figured if the gendarmes 

stopped me I would plead ignorance.  Désolé.  Je suis un Américain muet.  It seemed like a good plan.

marching with a cause 

or even without said cause

they raise a ruckus

ASSHOLES AND BITCHES NEED NOT APPLY

As I waltz through my life

whiling away hours, weeks,

years & even decades

I never found a shortage

of certain undesirable sorts.

There seems to be 

an asshole lurking

under every rock

& a bitch to be found

around any old corner.

The cretins aren’t coming.

They’re already here

They appear out of the mist

when you least expect them

always willing to lend a hurting hand.

There’s no longer any surprise

in finding someone new

only to learn they are not dependable.

You’re only an afterthought

they never truly care for.

As I get older

I find I have fewer friends

and more casual acquaintances

and that’s very much by design

as I try to keep my life real.

I’d rather be surrounded

by those relatively special few

that I know I can count on

than have thousands of false friends

valued at a dime a dozen.

BAD DREAMS

the blanket covers me

              in winter sweat

the dream turns sinister

a lesbian and a Republican

are talking to me

and trying to seduce me

into a plot 

to capture Tibet

and get head from

Buddhist monks

I run through the house

out to the backyard

being chased by

Andre the Giant and Grace Jones

My foot gets stuck

in an anthill

and the evil henchmen

take me captive;

some mornings

I’m really glad to wake up

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: J.C. Hawkes

R E D   C U R T A I N

I have replaced my face 

with a red curtain 

because,

I am hooked in 

and willingly I disappear 

into arms of 

cockroaches, 

a stockpile of dream 

and manifest of circulation. 

I found you 

at the closing of market street 

and we saw each other 

once estranged 

by emotion 

now reunited 

by several scenes 

describing our 

insatiable 

appetite 

for deliverance. 

Image

THAT IS NOT ALL THERE IS. 

Away from the noise 

and with 

– if any, 

neighbors 

who are 

other 

than 

the norm. 

one mysterious figure 

– scattered 

and an ordered mess 

made of black and green hues, 

He was suddenly offering 

me a house 

at any 

cost 

– an immediate transaction – 

available to relocate instantly. 

like clapping to turn the lights on

or a voice command 

to change 

the song. 

The things that creep 

into the brain –

This biological space, 

the magician 

forgotten 

and the neural network 

displays distinct potential 

but the wires are explosive 

and there is no one trained 

to fuse the energy created 

by its blast. 

That is not all there is – 

and even those beings 

who describe it well, 

one might 

consider to 

get a fact check 

or vote in the wrong presidency. 

Obsessive governmental orders 

by decree 

– sent to your depletion 

of conscious aware 

the imagination is 

murdered. 

That is not all there is!

THE REPUBLIC OF ROME. 

Of the light streaming inside 

the momentum of a 

falling petal into 

my lap

She, is a very distant creature 

who has enlivened  

while beating the river 

and the sun out of 

my rusted heart 

falling no longer 

to the expanding 

levels of a conscious 

activity across 

worlds within 

while the rain 

is falling

I see clearly 

more 

precarious 

elements 

of inactivity

and the 

promising 

downfalls. 

The psyche

an encroaching organism 

and my head is beating 

like the vibratory light 

dripping from the ceiling 

with the alluring fragrance 

of, I don’t give a flying fuck 

in hell anymore

I am quite okay with 

the fall of a civilization 

such as this version 

transpired and inspired 

by The Republic of Rome. 

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dillinger

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Robert Ragan

Their Mother Should Have Swallowed

The moment Natalie started talking about the thoughts, Marshall should have left and never looked back. The night they met, he missed all the red flags and flashing warning signs. As they sat in a small bar and talked for the first time, Marshall was lost in the way her blue eyes seemed to sparkle when his own eyes weren’t peeking at her tanned thighs.

In denim jeans shorts, she could have confessed to a murder, and he wouldn’t have been shocked without an orgasm making him come back to his senses. 

He didn’t see the sexy version of Nat. No, she was depressed, isolating herself. Her friends dragged her out, kicking and screaming to this hole in the wall bar across the road from a cornfield. 

It showed with her tangled, and oily hair draped over her face with no make-up. Despite this, Marshall was still interested in her.

Instead of talking about herself, Nat felt this obsessive need to tell him all about her brother’s murder in prison. 

Marshall put his hand on her leg, “Damn, that’s fucked up,” he said when she told him about her older brother catching a steel shank to the throat behind prison walls. 

Sitting there, she removed his hand from her knee and started taking slow, long, deep breaths. Taking a sip from her bottled water, Nat said, “I’m sorry, I just have horrible anxiety.”

Marshall said, “My sister does too.” But it wouldn’t take him long to figure out his sister didn’t have anxiety this bad.

Natalie did manage to shock Marshall. Looking down at the table, she said, “Mom and dad always acted like everything was fine, but I should have seen it coming after what happened when we were kids, obliviously.

A couple of her friends walked over and asked if she was okay.

Natalie introduced them to Marshall, then lied, saying she’d be fine. They asked her if she was riding home with Marshall. 

He said, “Yes,” and Nat gave him a funny look.

When her friends walked out, Marshall surprised himself when he remembered to ask her what had happened between her and her brother when they were kids. 

His memory caught Nat off guard, and the question seemed to terrify her. “Oh, never mind,” she said. 

By now, Marshall wanted to know the rest of the story. Natalie was only giving him bits and pieces, all out of order. 

She said, “I can’t believe they put Teddy in the general population and not protective custody.”

Marshall, quick to put it together in his head. An incident when you two were kids, oblivious parents, and he got his throat gashed open prison. 

Drawing a dark conclusion, Marshall said, “I don’t mean to make your anxiety any worse, but was your brother locked up in prison for some kind of sex charge?”

Her mouth gaped wide open, joining her eyes, which also opened wide, “Oh my God, how did you know?”

From there, she said Teddy was doing really good. First, he stopped smoking meth then got a decent job. After all that, he met a good woman named Kimberly.

Everything was fine, then her wild 15-year-old daughter, Dorey, was sent to live with her after the girl’s father fondled her. 

Dorey was supposed to be safe from this sort of behavior with her mother. Natalie said, “She would have been safe had she not brought drugs around.”

Siding with the victim, Marshall said, “So a teenage girl is responsible for her own assault because she brought drugs around a grown man? I’m sorry, but that sounds like total bullshit to me.”

Angered, Nat shot back, “What about the way she teased him by trying to sit on his lap along with all the other things she did?”

Looking into Marshal’s eyes, Nat said, “Oh, I know you’re one of those good ole boys who think my brother got what he deserved.”

Marshall agreed but didn’t admit to it or deny it. 

Natalie explained how Teddy had kept his charges a secret until a corrupt correctional officer informed Aryan Brotherhood members that there was a sicko pervert among them. 

Not trusting the C.O, a chief member called and had his girlfriend look up Teddy Michael’s charges. Sure enough what the C.O. told them was true. So the green light was on to shank him.

This inmate confessed all of this when Teddy’s dead body caught up with him.

Marshall just wanted a piece of ass; now he sort of disliked Natalie for taking up for this perv. Then again, he had to consider this pervert was her brother.

Thinking of his own siblings, Marshall knew his brother and sister would disown him in a heartbeat if he ever did such a thing.

So, he didn’t miss those red flags and flashing warning signs. No, Marshall just overlooked them. None of it mattered when he took Nat home and buried himself between those thighs. 

When he woke up in her bed the next morning, Marshall thought, ‘Well, I’ve had some crazy women in my time, but this one might take the cake.’

Later on that day, he learned she didn’t work anywhere and received a disability check every month for multiple mental illnesses. To him, that meant getting ahead financially a little bit easier. 

It was hard to make ends meet on his paycheck alone. Marshall had already broken the promise he made never to sell weed anymore. Now, if he could deal with Natalie’s shit, maybe he could stop for good. 

If not, it wasn’t like he was destroying his customer’s brains with meth or leading them to the physical dependence of heroin. A little loud never hurt anyone.

Not to mention, Nat was pretty when she made herself up. She wasn’t the same woman he met in the bar. All eyeliner and mascara, but the gleam and sparkle in her eyes was gone. A dull darker shade of blue replaced them in the middle of panic and agony. 

It was their first official date, and Marshall showed up having already drunk a few cold Bud-lights Nat said she had her license and would be fine to drive.

Before going out to a nice steak house, they stopped by Walmart so Marshall could buy some new Steel-toed work boots.

As they were driving out of the parking lot, Nat stopped to let a group of teen pedestrians pass by on their way inside the store. Marshal was chilling, ready to eat. He heard Nat punch his steering wheel. 

“What the hell, babe!”

With her eyes closed, she took deep breaths. The teens had long walked past, and the driver behind them blew their horn. As they drove off, Marshall asked if she was, ok?

Brushing the hair away from her face, she said, “Yeah, I’m ok. I just saw myself press the gas and mow down those kids back there, that’s all.”

With his eyes widened, Marshall said, “It’s cool; everyone has bad thoughts like that. Just tell yourself you’d never do a thing like that and let it go.”

Nat was amazed; she never expected Marshall to say something like that. Those words filled her with a feeling of peace better than any high, and she thought this might be a good night after all.

Then at the steak house, Marshall ordered his steak medium-rare. A vision of his teeth ripping out her throat flooded Nat’s mind with rabid fear. Clenching her tiny fists, she closed her eyes tight again and started taking long deep breaths. 

Marshall noticed the family sitting across from them as they stared. “What?” he said, “You never knew anyone who suffered from anxiety?”

When the waitress finally brought their food, Natalie hoped she could calm down long enough to enjoy her steak cooked well-done. No such luck, as she looked across the table and noticed Marshall sawing through his bleeding slab of meat.

Images of cows and hogs butchered in slaughterhouses flashed like old memories. Nat closed her eyes tight again and thought of cuddly puppies. After a long deep breath, she opened her eyes and saw blood covering her mashed potatoes instead of gravy. 

Instantly, drenched in sweat, Nat started heaving. Standing up, she rushed away from the table and headed to the bathroom. On her knees before the white porcelain toilet, she vomited. After a few moments, a couple of waitresses walked in to check on her. 

Natalie was curled up on the floor, repeatedly asking, “Why me, God? Why me, God? Why me?”

On the way to take her home, Marshall decided he could make it just fine on his own. Some pussy from a mentally ill hottie drawing disability would have been nice, but there was no way he could deal with her phycological issues. 

A sicko pervert for a son and a psycho daughter, their oblivious parents must have been so proud. 

When Marshall dropped Natalie off at home, he planned on never having to deal with her again. After a couple of days without hearing from him, she got the picture quickly. Once again, Nat was alone in the picture holding long strands of her hair in each hand.

Calling Marshall, she left a message. “I never lied to you,” she said, “I told you I was mentally fucked up.”

For the next two hours, Nat laid naked in bed in the dark, calling Marshall and leaving message after message on his voicemail. “I’m not really crazy,” she said, “All those gory visions came from a demon I’m possessed by. Doctors call him OCD, but I know him as Bloody Knife.”

In Nat’s third message, she said, “If this has something to do with my brother, I hope you know I think it was fucked up what he did to that girl. Do you really think I’ve forgiven him for what he did to me when we were kids? That’s how this fucking demon was born in my brain, to begin with. It was once named Disgusting Guilt, but over the years, it’s become the ultimate shapeshifter.”

Marshall was awake and only ignoring her. He listened to those messages and thought, ‘Damn, she’s probably gonna stalk me and be impossible to get rid of. What could it be besides that massive, long dick he gave her on the first night?’

When those messages started to sound like she was reading suicide notes aloud, Marshall finally answered the phone. “Nat, I know you have a lot of problems, but you’re cool, and you’re gonna be ok,” he said, “Trust me. I can’t commit to any woman, and so it wouldn’t be fair to keep leading you on.”

Crying over the phone, Nat said,” That’s all-total bullshit, and you know it, Marshall!”

Forcing a laugh through her tears, she said, “Don’t you dare think you’re gonna get rid of me this easily!”

Going all out to hurt him, Nat said, “What if I call your job and tell your employer how you sell pot to all your co-workers? While I’m at it, I might as well call the sheriff’s department and ask to speak to the head of narcotics!”

Marshall had heard enough, and he said, “Over a little weed? Go ahead and get me locked up, bitch! I’ll be fine in prison. No one is shanking my throat because I wouldn’t do what your brother did.”

Enraged, Nat said, “You think I really give a fuck? He’s probably burning in Hell right now!” she said.

Marshall didn’t give a fuck either; he said, “Your crazy ass isn’t far behind him!”

Natalie went silent for the first time. When she spoke again, it was about an ex who made her, and her brother look like stable members of the community. He once threatened to mutilate her vagina with a knife. Ever since she’s been plagued by images of this actually happening to her.

Natalie said, “I’ve lived in constant fear of him returning to murder me. But the things he would do to you would be much worse.”

Tired of going back and forth, Marshall said, “You know where I live; tell him to fucking bring it!”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Lori A. Minor

wellness class

my water bottle

hides the vodka

Mind Eraser

she hides my drink

until I’m sober

golf major

he skips a round

just to fuck me

hot girl summer

covered in sweat

from Gaga’s new hit

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Merritt Waldon

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Rick Christiansen

POSTCARDS

We sit across from one another at the old linoleum table.  It rocks slightly each time one of us rests a hand or forearm onto it.  She places postcards on the table between us as I absently pick at the worn linoleum, creating small flakes which I then brush to the floor.

She arrays the faded rectangles across the center of the table like a film editor planning her story.  I imagine a process occurring, image supporting idea, given form by words, informed by rhythm.

She almost whispers when she says, “I went to France the Summer I turned 17.  I went alone, without friends or family.  It is a long story.”

She hesitates and seems to contemplate saying more. A shiver of sadness seems to scatter her face for a moment.  Then she sighs with an expression of resolve.

“I made friends with these postcards that I found and purchased in shops and railroad kiosks.  We spoke to each other.  Each card told me a story.  Each, revealed to me a piece of where it had been, and I told each of them where I was going.”

I sipped my tea and listened to our breathing as I watched her contemplate which card would be placed next from the pile in front of her, considering proximity of each to the other.  Knowing a story changes depending on where you stand and with whom.

“This card was local to the village in which I stayed.  It is a picture of the butcher shop.  The butcher had only one hand.  I would watch him make the steaks and chops.  He would place the meat on the block carefully.  Arranging it so as to make the intended entry point of the blade most accessible.  He would then pick up the knife or cleaver and slice or chop in a single motion.” 

As she told me the story, she rearranged the postcards in front of her, mirroring the motions of the butcher as she was describing him, now only using the one hand, making a vertical chopping motion with the rectangle she was holding.  Her other hand resting unheeded next to her cup of cooling Chamomile tea.

“He would next lay down the implement and again arrange the meat for a cut.”

She continued to make the chopping motion with her hand.  Almost absently now, but with rising volume in her voice.

“Again and again he would repeat these movements until he had enough for the platter, he placed each day in the window of the shop.”

I sip my tea and sink into the rhythm of her story and the slight rocking of the table as we shift across from one another.  She breathes deeply for several moments and then speaks again in almost a whisper.

“I think he lost the hand in the war. But who knows? He was a butcher.  So many sharp encounters.”

She places the postcard of the shop gently down next to another faded card depicting a young girl looking at a park lake while trying to ignore the ducks at her feet.

“These postcards are still the best friends that I have made.  We still talk to each other.  The conversations help me to recapture my life from memory.  And now they help me to talk to you.”

I rise and kiss my Grandmother on her temple.  I take a knife from the drawer and begin to prepare lunch.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Christian Garduno

Chili in Heaven

God was busy doing a myriad of things,
as God normally is,
but on this particular day,
God was making his trademark “white boy chili”
and was especially distracted-
& you know what?
He sneezed from the powder, for one split second,
and he actually created the same snowflake twice
He looked at it-
looked at it again and said
I know I’ve made this snowflake before
and then He thought-
Well, really, it was billions of years ago and literally no one will notice
so He shrugged & let it go
But that batch of white boy chili
just didn’t have that oomph that it usually did.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Efe Tusder