VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Stephen Whitter

What do I Miss?

Your first kiss?
My last hit?
Which of you
Do I most miss?
As time goes on
No easier to say,
life has taken the choice away.
But I know that she lies in wait for me
My arms wait patiently,
Love with harm and Sharp kiss
Steals the memory of the one I miss.

Repugnant

You, repulsive, repugnant, revolting junkie,
Here to get your drugs for free.
Insults thrown my way, by an excitable woman,
at the chemist today.
The whole vile situation she took out on me,
while giving ,unwittingly,
a lesson in her vexation, a fine example of
Alliteration.

  Night, Night.

A cry of pain wakes me at night,
With a start , with a fright
After listening breath held,
Tremulous heart beating time,
I return head to pillow
Realising the cry was mine.

 A Funeral

A Funeral today, I didn’t go,
Though the church but a stone’s throw,
for this was a service for, well,
not a close friend of mine
but more a man of my kind.
I think a better soul than me,
but the brown haze made it hard to see.

His wife and son, loved him, but
still he wasted part of his life.
For I knew, and so did a few,
that he wrote stories you’d swear we’re true.

Hundreds of them, tales I’d have given
a arm to have written.

So for him,  no clocks stopped,
no dogs silenced with juicy bones.
A Funeral I didn’t attend,
His stories wasted,
his story ends.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Merritt Waldon

what sup bitch-lips

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: George Schaefer

I’M NOT ANGRY!  I’M DRUNK!

I’m not angry!  I’m drunk!

I’ve had a pint 

or two or three

and my voice is getting loud

I’m not mad at you

I’m not mad at the world

I can’t be mad at the world.

I’m drunk

and I feel lovey dovey

if in a sloppy way

I wanna hold your hand

or at least hold

another pint glass 

fill it with Guinness

God bless the Irish!

God bless everyone!

I’m not angry!  I’m drunk!

It’s not the angry white male

or the angry young poet

It’s a loud, happy drunk

slurring speech

and feeling no pain

just checking out the scene

feeling the music

and the spirit of the night

and some are offended

or taken aback

if I recklessly cuss;

don’t wanna offend anyone

It’s just the way I am

so listen to Behan

and have another pint

for Jay-sus sake

and mellow out

and don’t be afraid of me

cause I’m not angry!  I’m drunk!

Not trying to cast

an intimidating shadow

over anyone

just trying to catch a buzz

in the eternal scheme

of this blissful, everlasting night

MENAGE Á TROIS

They were married

to each other

but both were bi

“they informed me.” 

They explained their rule

that they could play

as long as they shared

with each other

Seemed enlightened to me

and my curiosity was piqued

if not fully inflamed 

We were having some fun

when I notice one with a strap on

and I’m thinking

it’s meant for her wife

She says, “Oh no, sweetie.

This is meant for you.” 

I gulp nervously

but we’re already 

in too deep.

But I think to myself,

“Hey I’m 55 years old

and having the first menage á trois

of my life.”

Things are not so bad.

I know you’d love for me

to sit down 

and tell you all about

but as much

as I’d love to boast

I beg you forgive my reticence

as I’m still a bit too sore 

POET SLAP FIGHTS AND ASS KISSING

We are getting snippy and contentious anymore.  It doesn’t seem like anyone can have any fun 

anymore.  So we have poets declaring on their posts that ass kissing doesn’t belong in poetry. 

 Hmmm, I initially misread the post and thought he wrote ass kicking.  I was thinking to myself 

that I can see room for both.  Sometimes you do have kick ass and depending on the person, you 

may actually want to kiss their ass.  It isn’t all bad.

No ass kissing

No poet slap fights

No fun of any kind

Then I see a poetry group that frowns upon poet slap fights.  I mean, come on, are you 

suggesting we go for full on poet fist fights?  I just don’t see that working.  What was the 

immortal line from Groundskeeper Willie:  “You speak like a poet but you punch like one, too.” 

Better to let poets slap fight and allow the illusion that they weren’t trying to hurt one another 

rather than let them actually have a fist fight and reveal the pathetic truth.  Besides, I happen to 

like both ass kissing and poet slap fights.  What can I say.  I am a little kinky even if I did 

chicken out when my dominatrix suggested CBT.  Being kinky doesn’t mean I need my scrotum 

scraped with sandpaper.  I’ll take a hard pass on that one.

Let my poets slap

enjoy thy frenemy’s ass

all good in the end

COMPLIANCE

and 

so 

she said

Kiss my ass!

I quickly complied

I don’t know why she’s pissed off now

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Paul Warren

Drainage for angels

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Ryan Quinn Flanagan

First in Class

He showed up early that morning.

Sat in his usual chair at the back of the class.

Beside the periodic table on the wall

with all those initials and never any explanation.

He opened a book from the library

and pretended to be reading.

People reading always seemed like they were pretending too.

As though no one was reading at all and just thinking

about sex on a waterbed.

That made the most sense.

Other students began showing up.

Paying him no attention just as they always did.

Not noticing the large bulge in his schoolbag

on the floor this morning.

A quick look to the clock.

Having rehearsed this moment in his head

a thousand times.

Waiting for the teacher to come in

and close the door.

For everyone to stop pretending 

to read books for good.

Straw Man, Fire Woman

Did your father whip you like you say?

she asks.

All fathers did, it was the times.

Why do you think “wait until your father gets home”

held so much weight?

It wasn’t “wait until your father gets home 

and goes right to bed with tiredness.”

He wasn’t playing a game of tiddly winks.

I guess I was lucky I was a girl,

she says.

I never had to deal with that.

We just give each other eating disorders.

The wine is going down fast tonight.

It has been dark since six.

She says I can cut her hair

and I shake my head no vehemently.

I’m not walking into that trap!

I say.

A man knows better or at least he should.

Pulling at her long stringy hear,

she makes a face.

The hairdressers has been closed for over a year.

She wants to get her hair cut in the worst way.

It’s easy for men, 

she says.

You just shave your head 

and you’re fine.

I’ll shave your head,

I offer.

No!

she shouts.

Never mess with a woman’s hair,

I laugh.

That’s the first thing you learn.

She sits back 

and smiles because she knows 

I am right.

But she can’t stop pulling at her hair.

She can feel it getting longer by the hour.

I offer to buzz her head down twice more

that night.

Making that sound of taking it all away

that she has always

hated so much. 

We Could Strangers

Young kids.

Young ways.

Everyone waves goodbye

never believing it the last time.

With large foam hands

you can get at the stadium so the 

local sports teams can cover up

for personal shortcomings.

That Dracula Does Dallas way my feet sweat in the dark.

Veiny and hung over the side of failing 

dry mouth world.

Salty sports bar peanuts leaving the shell.

Bus station runaways never in the driver’s seat.

This way the flu climbs up my face 

like some cheeky rose Renoir

doing sooty jerk Paris.

Parades are a war of people,

I have always wanted some long

personal armistice.

Ignoring that dirty shave water way

we used to collect around the hairy backlogged  

drains of each other. 

Kiss at swollen drive-in lips 

so that the ticklish hours

escape the screen.

Someone brought a wall down

and I am lost in the resale value 

of ferocious landlords.

That crinkly newspaper way

you sit beside me 

on the trains.

We could be strangers.

After all this time together. 

Morning coffee so strong.

Both of us in our housecoats,

refusing to get dressed.

A tray of punch-drunk cigarettes

forever between us.

Four Letters into Someone Else’s Tired Alphabet 

Hooper drained his beer,

trying to belch out the alphabet.

Only getting four letters in

before all fortitude left him.

Joekel drained his beer

and tried to place it in the chain link fence.

It fell and shattered on the sidewalk

beside his feet.

Amateur!

mocked Pete.

You have stick the thing in on a lean.

Guess he ain’t used to sticking it in,

joked Hooper.

Joekel gave him the finger.

You know the one.

When you have been bested 

and there is nothing else to say.

Pete chugged his beer and placed it on the 

perfect lean in the chain link fence.

Sure enough, it stayed there.

Like a true thing of beauty.

Crumpled song-less crickets in the near-distance.

The sound of balding tires skidding across pavement.

Let’s go lift some snacks from the Korean,

Hooper nudged Joekel in the side.

A two block trek

through the sleeping world.

Humping through a jungle of lawn ornaments

 to corner convenience.

Joekel standing out front.

Playing lookout 

as always.

Under the constant buzz of that neon burnout sign

that seemed to attract everything

and nothing at the same time.

Joekel thinking of that empty beer bottle

on the lean.

How the first person to come across 

such beauty would never see it.

Knocking it off 

with some giant thoughtless paw

of a swat in passing.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Michael Lacy

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Jonathan Bracker

Bucolic

Favorite names of men, for me,

Are “Jeremy” and “Timothy.”

I’ve a CD of birds in the wild

On which clearly as clear can be

One dude reiterates its name:

“Jeremy Thatcher, Jeremy Thatcher,”

Pauses briefly, then

Double-states again.

In my mind I see a former

Female Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Timothy? 

Timothy’s the grass of that meadow.

Charley Horse

Napping, such a sudden sharp pain in a calf 

Because I shifted my leg 

Quickly in the wrong direction!

As a child attacked by Charley Horse,

I was told what it was called. I found

Knowing its name neither interesting

Nor helpful; instead, I wondered

Could this happen again? Daddy

Told me what to do, next time it came.

This morning it occurs. But I possess

His remedy: do not fight against it;

Remember to breathe;

Wait – which can take some time. 

The difference between this and Life’s

Other ills? Only its somewhat intriguing name.

Fallen Pecans

Pecans were wooden worlds

To open by pressing hard two together 

Or by letting nutcracker jaws crack one apart.

The boy liked using a thin silver pick to lift 

The lobes of a brain out of its shell

Like jigsaw puzzle pieces.  

He was too young to be shod in hobnail boots

Like the overalled man he saw

Gleefully stamp on fallen pecans next door

But believed 

In a year or two

He also could do that.

Farmer’s Market At The Civic Center

Seemingly tireless, the lady from Greece

Positions halved oranges on the machine,

Bears down, lifts up

And, smiling, offers juice.

The stand’s a hole-in-the-wall

But soon she will find

A better location.  Framed is

A postcard of her town.

Sometimes, she tells, when they meet

There, sea’s blue and sky’s blue 

Cannot be separated

By anyone’s eyes.

A grown son blends energy shakes,

Apparently, content.  If you talk

Both will visit and into your mind

May come funicular railways.

Everyone, these two attest,

Is from somewhere

And for five to ten minutes after

You can see this everywhere.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Michael Lee Johnson

Poets Out of Service (V6)

Like a full-service gas station

or postal service workers

displaced, racing to Staples retail

for employment against the rules of labor,

poets are out of business nowadays, you know.

Who carries a loose change in their pockets?

Who tosses loose coins in their car ashtray anymore?

iPhones, smartphones, life is a video camera

ready to shoot, destroy, and expose.

No one reads poets anymore. 

No one thumbs through the yellow pages anymore.

Who has sex in the back seat of their car anymore,

just naked shots passed around online?

Streetwalkers, bleach blonde whores,

cosmetic plastic altered faces in the neon night;

they don’t bother to pick pennies

or quarters off the streets anymore.

The days of surprise candy bags for a nickel

pennies lying on the countertop for

Tar Babies, Strawberry Licorice Laces

(2 for a penny), Wax Lips, Pixie Sticks,

Good & Plenty are no more.

Everyone is a dead-end player; he dies with time.

Monster technology destroys crump fragments of culture.

Old age is a passive slut; engaging old age

conversations idle to a whisper and sleep alone.

Matchbox, hand-rolled cigarettes,

serrated, slimmed down, and gone.

Time is a broken stopwatch gone by.

Life is a defunct full-service gas station.

Poets are out of business nowadays.

Deep in my Couch (V2)

Deep in my couch 

of magnetic dust,

I am a bearded old man.

I pull out my last bundle 

of memories beneath

my pillow for review.

What is left, old man,

cry solo in the dark.

Here is a small treasure chest

of crude diamonds, a glimpse 

of white gold, charcoal, 

fingers dipped in black tar.

I am a temple of worship with trinket dreams,

a tea kettle whistling ex-lovers boiling inside.

At dawn, shove them under, let me work.

We are all passengers traveling

on that train of the past—

senses, sins, errors, or omissions

deep in that couch.

Nightlife Jungle Beat,

Bar Next Door (V2)

Like all thing’s life changes, its melodies fragment.

It breaks pieces apart, then they drift, then shatter.

The singers of songs love bars,

naked bodies, consistencies, and inconsistencies

that makes it burn all turn outright at night.

They like to drum repeat rhythms and sounds.

Poets like to retreat to dens

of pleasure just like these.

Sing poets sing off-key

free verse notes down by the bridge,

near the river as far as their voices

will carry them away.

It is the nature of difference,

indifference a vocabulary of us confused,

minds between insanity and genius.

The hermit asks for

a public forum in shyness,

while treading to the bar

next door for a shot of tequila

no money, no life.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dillinger

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Heath Brougher

Your God

Your God is a slave to human imagination and flights of ridiculous fancy.

Your God is more dead than Nietzsche.

Your religion is an insane social disease, 

childish and created to help cowards 

cope with vaguely cultivated conundrums concerning Truth. 

Your God is an anvil tied to Humanity’s tyranny of evil traditions and mania. 

Your fairytales are a form of slavery. Most states of mental slavery

are also forms of insanity.

So, this is where your God, your Savior, has

brought you at last: right into the arms of a worldview 

rife with insane deception and servitude. .

Your God has forsaken you 

as your God is a violent lie 

talked of through the millennia of humanity’s seeming need for delusion.

Built to Forget to Remember 

It’s been two months and I still 

occasionally forget my mom is dead.

When I go to her house 

and I don’t see her there

there I begin to fall apart.

Just like the soothsayers of Iron Chic had predicted. 

One song— 

almost perfectly worded for how I was feeling

when I first found out how badly the sudden and true pain

of death can reduce a soul to the size of subatomic particles.

The Truth

Nietzsche did

not go

Mad. He

went Sane

Ugly on the Inside

Hey Momma!

I’m gonna blow my fuckin brains out!

I’m gonna fade to white.

I’m gonna die like a dog.

Like a lovely, lovely dog.