VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Shane Allison

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Milenko Županović

Screams

In the valley 

of darkness 

screams 

of demons 

trapped in a cave 

the way of hell

covered 

with ashes.

Shadow

The hidden 

tears 

of angels

 in the hearts 

of the faithful 

on the hill 

of Golgotha 

covered 

with the shadow 

of the cross.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Michael Lee Johnson

Showers & Rain

I’d like to see you in showers,

shadows, memories, final hours

that end this rain.

Daisies reveal your simple secrets,

yellow perverted pleasures, complicated,

often unseen mysteries like

COVID-19 virus.

Forget your sins & dance with me.

All petals at some point fall

in season come to despair

same as a desperate ending.

I focus on memories now

represent all short stories shared,

a poem or two no one will remember,

a Hemingway legacy funeral,

one family member,

one suicide at a time. 

Death Certificates

We all wait for our death certificates—

aging bodies, sagging arms, necks with wrinkles.

We drag our bodies around shopping malls

in all shapes, funny forms, walk

around in tennis shoes early mornings.

Don’t stretch out here too far.

Just get our groceries, see our grandchildren,

Lucky Charms, no witchcraft, but Jesus

finds our way home.

Kansas, Old Abandoned House 

House, weathered, bashed in grays, spiders,

homespun surrounding yellows and pinks

on a Kansas, prairie appears lonely tonight.

The human theater lives once lived here

inside are gone now,

buried in the back, dark trail

behind that old outhouse.

Old woodchipper in the shed, rustic, worn, no gas, no thunder, no sound.

Remember the old coal bin, now open to the wind, 

but no one left to shovel the coal.

Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides all gone.

Deserted ghostly children still swing abandoned in the prairie wind.

All unheated rooms no longer have children

to fret about, cheerleaders have long gone,

the banal house chills once again, it is winter,

three lone skinny crows perched out of sight

on barren branched trees silhouetted in early morning

hints of pink, those blues, wait with hunger strikes as winter

that snow starts to settle in against moonlight skies.

Kansas becomes a quiet place when those first snowfalls.

There is the dancing of the crows−

that lonely wind, that creaking of the doors, no oil in the joints.

Kansas, Old Abandoned House 

House, weathered, bashed in grays, spiders,

homespun surrounding yellows and pinks

on a Kansas, prairie appears lonely tonight.

The human theater lives once lived here

inside are gone now,

buried in the back, dark trail

behind that old outhouse.

Old woodchipper in the shed, rustic, worn, no gas, no thunder, no sound.

Remember the old coal bin, now open to the wind, 

but no one left to shovel the coal.

Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hayrides all gone.

Deserted ghostly children still swing abandoned in the prairie wind.

All unheated rooms no longer have children

to fret about, cheerleaders have long gone,

the banal house chills once again, it is winter,

three lone skinny crows perched out of sight

on barren branched trees silhouetted in early morning

hints of pink, those blues, wait with hunger strikes as winter

that snow starts to settle in against moonlight skies.

Kansas becomes a quiet place when those first snowfalls.

There is the dancing of the crows−

that lonely wind, that creaking of the doors, no oil in the joints.

 Jasper 

 Old Irving Park,

Chicago neighborhood

Jasper lives in a garret

no bigger than a single bed.

Jasper, 69, clouds of smoke

Lucky Strike unfiltered cigarettes.

He dips Oreo cookies in skim milk.

Six months ago 

the state revoked

his driver’s license-

between the onset 

of macular degeneration,

gas at $4.65 a gallon,

and late-stage emphysema,

life for Jasper has stalled out

in the middle lane

like his middle month

social security check, it is gone.

There is nothing academic about Jasper’s life.

Today the mailbox journey is down

the spiraling stairwell; midway,

he leans against the wall.

Deep breathes from his oxygen tank.

Life is annoying with plastic tubes up his nose.

Relief, back in the attic, with just his oxygen tank,

his Chicago Cubs, losers, are playing

on his radio, WGN, 720 AM.

Equipment, enjoyment at last,

Jasper leans back in his La-Z-Boy recliner.

He reaches for a new pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Jasper grabs a lukewarm Budweiser beer from his mini-fridge.

Deep breathes, a match lite, near his oxygen tank.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Alicia Mathias

BEWITCH


hearts dip 

into death     

just 

for a taste,

a reprieve

from breath,

yet now 

they are lost.

skulls flicker        

with obsession

flirt hard

with silence,

to end

its ache.

all our burning            

questions

never had 

the answer;

were only 

distractions

from the fact,

that time is

running 

out. 

a winding 

staircase

whose end 

cannot be seen,

lures

us 

toward

the unknown.

attempting 

 to fill

an unexplainable

   void

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: R. Keith

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Rick Christiansen

Tinder Anachronism

I imagine Herman Hesse and Anaïs Nin

Both swiping right

They would meet in a small Paris coffee bar

Anaïs would flick the whip cream from her cup

Using just the tip of her tongue as punctuation

Herman would watch her carefully

And finger the Nobel he wears as a cravat

Clearing his throat nervously

He would talk quietly about the First Great War

By the second cup

they would be dishing on Henry Miller

But not about June

And saying that to be an artist requires

An income

or resourcefulness

or both

Herman would remark upon her narrow calf skin boots

And tell her

that they look very smart and smooth

Anaïs would tilt her head and smile

Thinking of other older men she has tasted

And with her eyes she would swipe right again

And Herman would see the glance

And nod

And pay the check

As he tells her about the balcony

And the cat

In the apartment he has borrowed

Just around the corner

Forever Home

Poetic desire

I was so excited!

They looked at me/

For quite awhile

Considering…

My happiness

in their home

And if I would fit/

Comfortably/

In the space they have prepared

My rhyme scheme/

Does not shed/

I am easy to quatrain!

So I put

my dimeter/

On the glass

And stutter/

stepped with my—

Best enjambing/

Flarf wag

But they pull/

Away?

I slink/

Back to—

my folder

For another/

Day—of submissions/

In search of/

My forever home

Dumpster fire in Paradise

I imagine Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

and Mark Rothko meeting

As they dumpster dive 

together in the ether

Each drawn there 

by the same smell of rancid chicken

But for very different reasons

Mark could help Larry 

up and into the container

Age before beauty after all

They would both smirk

And they would get their hands dirty

Because that is what you do when you make something worthwhile

It is never too late to create something that people are NOT ready to see.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Bhoj Kumar Dhamala

Conviction 

High morale, boosted status, and superb 

Style of living makes one feel your better –

Off guise and you are in seventh heaven 

Just a delusion, you are out of it unless 

You realize who you are the surrounding 

Goes on after you for what you cannot 

Afford to offer the poor creature living on 

The earth, thinking on the top, under delusion

That seems ether for the trodden weaver 

Conviction, the wrong surmise never lets 

You realize your true part that you are seeking 

Always left behind the scenes a piteous life. 

Ebb and the Flow 

On the long journey of the 

Ebb and flow, experiencing 

The excellent and meager of

Cosmic world, the sad reality 

Perennial love is yet miles a 

Way, infinity fathomable and

Needing a rustic life rush and 

Rest the binary thing my way

Or the highway torpid in the 

Self-acclaimed narcissism the 

Ebb and flow is on its way we  Must incorporate and live on 

Morning Glory 

Comes with a-fresh new swear within

Zephyr adds the melody the sun beam

So tender, soberly touches the body limbs 

Your sapped night is over and no wet eyes

The shrouded yell that you were perplexed

To share with your dearest gone now with 

This morning glory, you are cherished the 

Infinite wave is craved within you no one 

Can silence for you being who you are and 

Really proficient not the same as you were 

The previous day a morning glory eases you

Swirling and providing the prove your worth

Sweetheart 

Sweetheart is what I meant for a sweet

Note to the blessed life, fine tuning, song 

For the singing bird and jocund company

Is sweetheart for me and diluting nectar.

A juicy, velvety, and luscious, relationship

Yes sweetheart is what I meant, ceaseless.

Divinely guided souls submerged together

For life and blood is sweetheart for me 

An evenhanded indulgent, survival both

Tranquil, and soothing, breathing cadence

Reign over evil for sweetness in life ever

Is what I meant for a sweet sweetheart.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE:Christian Garduno

Saint Jerome’s Blues

It’s travelling to my heart
and the diagnosis, it doesn’t look good
It’s melting into my veins
and the prognosis, it doesn’t look good

I crawled my way to Saint Jerome
he gave me a carafe of red and sent me stumbling home
And the next time I see Saint Jerome
I’m going to crack his heart of stone

It’s gone to my brain
and for the first time, I’m really afraid
It’s spreading to the other half of my mind
I’m receding further & further into my cave

Keep me in your tiny box of thoughts
this. is. not. fixable.
Think of me from time to time please
all the fixes in the world can’t fix me 

I’m off to see Saint Jerome
I’m going home

(previously published by Gnashing Teeth Publications)

Ghosts in The Treme

Violet nights with crimson eyes
lay down your symphonies
surrender in the morning
all the dreams you couldn’t pawn

The moon whiter than milk
we crossed an invisible line
who knows what they do
with the memories you throw away

All’s above board
and love below sea-level
All’s above board
and love below sea-level

Not all the souls in the graveyard are dead
some would like one last word with you
and that sorry round sun will have to wait until
the day after tomorrow to even show his face

Were we really so different then?
it all seems so many ages ago
on the contrary
we could do with some general relief

One pill chases another
until the bottle is empty & broken
Home, my love
and do not spare any of the horses

Kudzu Wine

We touched heaven one too many nights
our tears froze in the snow
I put on your big coat just to kill the chill in the air
I light my candles, I can’t help my mind when it comes to you
there’s no direct translation
seems like you’re all out of cards
your only resort at this point is playing nice
nobody bothers to mention when you’ve got it all

You drag your jewels from a pigpen
like time trapped in glass
shattering in slow motion
If, in the event that I…well, never mind
there’s just no point to the point anymore
we had more when we only had each other
we had more when we had nothing at all

Moscow Blues

One cannot be right against the Party
you are only but an index card in The Field Marshal’s office
And soon, bodies are falling like
snowflakes on the ice

I suppose it’s all babblespeak
state policy is a pistol firing
you must wipe Yelena from your mind
consign her to the dustbin

Moscow does not believe in tears
you don’t care much about your hair
once you’re beheaded
It’s the law of seven-eighths

And we degenerate into doing as much damage
as we can before that bullet reaches us–
and it was fired ages ago
ages ago

Liberation is freedom
backed by firing squads
secret ballots
and public hangings

Crawling about on all fours
your face is human but your eyes are animal
fighting with cats on the street
over a dead pigeon

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Danny D. Ford

“Barracuda”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Anibal Perez Longhi

The Girl Who Watched the River

He saw him every day from his window. He was sitting on a bench in the plaza, and perhaps to forget his loneliness, he was feeding the pigeons with the scraps of food that the charity volunteers usually distributed. Elio, it was the beggar’s observer name, opened the window, called him and received him in the house where he lived with his wife. –What is your name? –Asked Elio –Elmer –answered the beggar. – Where’ll you spend the night?” – I’ll go to a Charity Shelter. –Well, you’ll stay here tonight. Elio’s wife served him hot food, sitting him at her table, while she looked for her husband’s clothes to give him. Elmer felt overwhelmed by so much generosity, he had been on that bench in the plaza for a long time, he knew the couple by sight, and he didn’t know why they were being so generous towards him … But, between the meal, the wine and a kindness that he usually didn’t receive, his thoughts soon disappeared, giving way to a soft comfort, in which he allowed himself. After dinner, and clothes changing, he wanted to go away, he didn’t want to bother, he knew that if he was discreet, those actions could be repeated, and give relief to his unbearable life. -No and no. You’ll stay here tonight. Elio said, pointing to the door of a room. His room. –You are very kind, but I prefer to go to the shelter like every night… I could come back tomorrow… If you want… –said Elmer. –Of course not –answered the couple like one –Tonight you’ll sleep here. Elmer no longer refused, he entered his room, undressed, got into bed, and felt the peace of being able to sleep without worrying about keeping an eye on his few belongings, which in the shelter used to disappear if he slept deeply. Elio, when he heard Elmer’s snoring, left the house with his wife, who got into the car and started the engine, while her husband made a little gasoline path, started it, and got into the car … walking they felt the terrible explosion, and saw the flames grow through the rearview mirror. The plan was simple. Ana, the woman, would collect her husband’s life insurance and also that of the house. No one would doubt that the burned body was that of her husband, she would drive to the border and settle in Mexico. Elio would travel with false documents, and she, a widow, would have no impediment to remarry. They would start a new life. After a routine investigation, Ana collected the insurance, whattaspped her husband, and asked him to wait for her in a bar, so she gave him the money to get new documents to travel. Elio waited. Ana’s cell phone was off. She wouldn’t come back for him … Desperately, he walked to the appointment of the “cartoonist”, to give him the documents. Do you have the documents? Elio asked anxiously. –Do you have the money? –Asked the Cartoonist–No, but I’ll pay you later, I need them… –First the money. I don’t have it here …

Well, come back when you have it. He stopped a taxi and disappeared. Elio wandered aimlessly, tired, sat on the bench in a square, and when he looked up, he saw someone looking at him from a window.