VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Ray Ziemer

Betrayal

Another clattering army

Crawls the desert

Under towering plumes of dust;

Another round of artillery fire

Shakes the earth,

Pounding mud houses

Back into the salted earth they sprouted from

Smudging a sickly shimmering sky

From one uncertain horizon to the other.

These ragged families fleeing down the road,

Same as all those other desperate refugees

Of every other desperate dying place on earth,

I grieve for them.

But I am furious

For the fighters left behind

To hold the line,

Defend that blood-soaked barren sand,

For them I am incensed

That they must eat the dirt 

Of empty resignation, 

Must choke it down and

Chew the choice of exodus or death 

They must suffer the shocking stab of treachery,

Shake their fists with all the rage of this

Betrayal.

Cosmic Blueprint

To hell with this emptiness formless and dark.

Let there be skyfire bright above stone –  

Yes, that’s better,

That’s good.

Let the blue water rush, let it pour from the void,

And let sunshadow cool against rock solid shores, yes

I like it.

So Day versus Night,

Hardlands assailed by clamorous waves

With the vault of the heavens

Containing it all,

Gilded with sunshine

Polished all silvery, starry and moonish.

Excellent, excellent!

Let it be green

And teeming with life.

Let the creepers and crawlers and swimmers

Go wild!

With these beasts of the field and 

Birds on the wing

It’s a beautiful thing

If I say so my Self.

I could check the plan over once more,

But it’s perfect.

Perhaps such a delicate

Balance requires

Some maintenance,

Some supervision:

Someone to tend it, 

Defend it and 

Keep it all working

The way that it should: 

Optimum temperature, 

Perfect proportions of solids and gases,

Predator, prey,

Seasons and tides.

So the sheep have their shepherds

The seas have their song,

Mankind has the Knowledge.

What could go wrong?

Whistling Man

This fresh-air bright-eyed morning

A whistling lilt drifts over to me

On the road as I walk the dogs.

My neighbor, barely seen through a screen

Of native honeysuckle,

Strolls his sprawling lawn out back

Collecting trash and maple twigs,

And trills a breezy melody,

A song I can’t quite name,

A Celtic air or 

Maybe an old-time movie tune.

I think of my father

Who could summon a song 

Whistle all day long

While trimming a room

Shingling a roof or

Fishing along the shore.

With childhood memories

Carried off on the wind

I’m a little surprised to hear that man

Or anyone

So relaxed and easy with his warbling.

Was there ever a time I’d chirp like that?

I’m afraid now I’m incapable,

Dry-mouthed, bitter, drawn,

Too tense to even purse my lips,

Too tight to trill light-hearted tune,

Too angry to whistle a happy song.

1984 – On Reality of Past and Future

Let’s talk about reality:

How many fingers do you see?

Two plus two is always four,

Unless we say it must be three.

Who controls the past controls the future; 

Control the future, you make the past.

Where is that place, that time, that year?

Where is that Sunday, where Saturday last?

It exists inside the skull, perhaps

But has no substance you can feel.

It’s not external, outside your self.

It isn’t concrete — it isn’t real.

It exists in the mind and nowhere else.

Is memory hidden beyond the reach

Of foes and those who seek control,

Seek to lead, to train, to teach?

No, your memories are not secure

In the mortal mind so fallible, weak, 

Decaying matter that we can mold,

Matter we change however we speak.

Nothing exists but consciousness.

And that you see is what we control.

And we decree your reality.

No need for things that serve the soul.

No use for art, for literature,

No fantasies of self-reliance,

The earth’s no older than we, believe it.

Omnipotent, we need no science.

The so-called laws of nature? Nonsense!

The law of gravity? Nonsense too!

We make the laws, decide the lies 

But anything we say is true.

How many fingers do you see?

Look hard, if you want to stay alive.

Two plus two is always four,

But then, perhaps we say it’s five.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: DILLINGER

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Samir Karimo

MEDUSA

I still remember those seductive almond eyes that drove me crazy: her look made me what I am today, a completely hypnotized bodiless shadow turned into a statue …. this is Medusa’s curse…

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Natalie Byers (love notes)

Not Shutting down yet…

Though it is tempting…

The third volume of VOICES FROM THE FIRE is out, featuring more prose than usual now that the cruelty of April for National Poetry Month has subsided that was volume 2.

art by Dillinger

Featuring spectacular cover art by that loveable renegade rascal Dillinger and illustrations by James Maj, R. Keith. Shane Allison and Danny D. Ford.

As always VOICES FROM THE FIRE along with Dumpster Fire Press is a work in progress and I’d like to thank all the contributors and readers for bearing through this and your nigh infinite patience. It’s a hell of a fight against censor bots and corporate shills to get this out to an audience who appreciates what the small press has to offer and that’s what makes it worth it…

The genuine appreciation that comes forth after I’m damn near close to throwing in the towel on this anthology and keeping it only an online journal…still something to be said about holding a tangible copy in your hand.

As always via the submissions page on here, VOICES is taking submissions for prose, poetry and art. Guidelines can be found on the “about” and “submissions” pages on the site.

If you want to preview what has been going on, check the VOICES FROM THE FIRE blog from May to June 25th. If you want to contribute in keeping DFP afloat go ahead and buy the book as there will also be a cheaper black and white version forthcoming. A link to that will be placed within in this post, god (who I don’t really believe in) knows when…

Until next time when volume 4 causes me to either quit or slit my wrists…

actually don’t worry about any of that… I need something to hate…which is somehow something I love.

Being socially awkward and/or self destructive with a semi-good nature isn’t easy.

Stay surreal…

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: James Maj

Initial scene of a bar fight

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Wayne F. Burke

The Organization

Tuesday night at Leno’s Bar & Grill.

     Henry Holt sat on the third stool from the right, where he sat every night of the year, except Christmas Eve, which he spent with his mother, with whom he lived.

     Henry swiveled on his stool, stepped down, and walked outside the bar. He felt light on his feet, airy; as if he could float had he a mind to…

     A cool summer night. He walked to his home under streetlights and a couple of twinkling stars. A sickle-shaped moon.

     His mother had left a light on for him in the living room. Henry hung-up his jacket and checked in on his mother who was sleeping. He sat on a couch in the clean, tidy room and looked around at all the familiar objects. The telephone rang, a shrill scream, and he snatched it from its cradle so it would not wake his mother.

     “May I speak to Henry Holt, Junior, please?” A rich baritone voice. Plaintively forceful.

     “Speaking.”

     “Mr. Holt, allow me to introduce myself: my name is Joseph P Santorini of the Organization Santorini and I want to be the first to congratulate you and wish you luck should you chose to accept the offer I am about to make.”

     Henry sat up straighter. Was it a gag, he wondered. A rip-off, and scam?

     “We have been watching you, Henry—if I may—and have become aware of your outstanding abilities and of your potential which we, of the Organization, believe to be considerable. I and the rest of the board members feel that you are the right man to work for the Organization, even, possibly, run the Organization.”

     The man went on talking; he stated a salary that, to Henry’s mind, was huge.

     The whole thing was unbelievable, Henry told himself, and yet—and yet—he had always known, or suspected, that one day something big, something like this call, would come—that his true ability would, at last, be recognized and that he would rise to some position of power and prominence. Some nights, at the bar, while staring into the mirror between the bottles of booze, he had fantasized about occupying such a position; had seen himself clearly in such a role, though unclear exactly what the position consisted of, except that it was commensurate with his, to this point in his life, hidden abilities, which—even if he did say so himself, were considerable.

     The man went on, the smooth suave voice describing the Organization and the position Henry was offered; the voice, finally, giving a local address that Henry, first having to go to the kitchen for a pencil, wrote down.

     The next morning, after Henry awakened, got out of bed, shaved, and put his best suit on—his only suit, he walked out to his car (his mother’s car) and drove to the given address.

     A bright red door on a busy street of office buildings. ‘The Organization’ in gold lettering on the door. Funny, Henry thought, that he had never, in all the times walking along this very street, noticed the red door. He touched the knob and the door seemed to swing open of its own accord. He stepped inside, into an office both chic and dazzling, a place of sparkling cleanliness with cream-colored walls and stolid yet stylish furniture and sparkling plate glass.

     A smartly dressed woman approached: a classy broad, Henry could see at a glance. She held out a white immaculately manicured hand. Her lavender-colored blouse, Henry noted, was sheer—the kind of material you could look through at all the works, and brother, Henry told himself, this babe had the works!

     “Mr. Holt, I assume?” Her manner pleasant but with cold business-like efficiency. Her thick red lips parted, and a plump pink tongue flopped out between walls of straight white teeth. The tongue wiggled a few times before slipping back into the mouth.

     She turned and sashayed, her can swinging side-to-side in a skirt that looked as if it had been painted on.

     Henry, following, sat in a comfortable leather chair that held him up like a hand.

     As the woman bent over her desk, Henry gawked at her cleavage. He could not follow whatever she was saying—some kind of speech, that went on for a long time, which he did not understand a word of.

     He watched her red lacquered fingernail shoot out and descend upon a button on a desk-top contraption.

     “Send him right in, Miss Puckerbum,” commanded a voice.

     Henry snapped out of his inexplicable stupor. He stood, as the woman commanded, and held out his hand to her. “Thank you, thank you,” he gushed, “Miss…”

     The woman reached and cupped Henry’s balls in her hand; she playfully tugged on the tip of his penis as if feeling for girth and heft.

     Henry turned his head aside and coughed twice.

     The woman pointed to a door, labeled THE ORGANIZATION.

     Henry walked to the door and entered into an office. He told himself it was going to be great working for the Organization. He knew, somehow, that he was going to like his job.

     A mid-sized broad-shouldered man stood in the middle of the plush-carpeted office floor. His stance and features exuded a sense of awesome power and distinction. A man’s man, who looked to have been carved out of stone. A nimbus of gold surrounded his leonine head. He smoked a foot-long black cigar. Each puff of smoke formed a sculptured cloud overhead. His face, like a walnut polished; his immaculately combed chocolate hair shiny as Plexi-glass. He motioned with a sweeping and histrionic gesture out of a plate glass window. Henry looked down at hordes of workers moving with fervid purposefulness in and around a multitude of buildings and through yards and cordoned-off areas of grounds that stretched for miles.

     The sight took Henry’s breath away. How it could be, he wondered? He had lived in the town all his life and never had he even suspected the existence of such an organization. How had they, the Organization, managed to keep themselves hidden, from him, in plain sight?

     The rich voice, Henry realized, was droning on and on in mellifluous certainty and complete sentences, like someone reading from a book, Henry thought, awed by the loquaciousness and sheer force of the man’s demeanor.

     Henry felt the man’s hand on his shoulder like a sudden intrusion. Like a vice-grip of iron.

     “Henry!” the man said, “Henry! This Organization…HENRY!

     Henry came-to; lifted his head up off the bar.

     “Wake-up!” John the Bartender scowled. “We are closing!”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Gwil James Thomas

Lucky The Mouse. 

He turned up the volume 

on his Steel Pulse record 

and rolled another joint.

‘What’s that?’ I asked 

and pointed to a cage 

on the ash-trodden carpet,

‘That’s Lucky the mouse,’ 

he replied and grinned  

‘Why’d you call him 

Lucky?’ I questioned, 

‘Well before him 

we had this snake

named Cuddles and 

we’d been told to give 

Cuddles some live food. 

So, we were gonna

feed Lucky to Cuddles, 

but Cuddles passed away 

before dinner and that’s 

how Lucky got his name, 

he dodged death!’

‘Oh,’ I replied, 

not expecting that 

and stared at Lucky, 

as he ran around his cage – 

another happy accident 

beneath an oblivious sun. 

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: The Mississippi Prison Writing Project

Instead of featuring a particular artist and/or writer, I’d like to draw attention to The Mississippi Prison Writing Project.

The editor. Louis Bourgeois first reached out to Dumpster Fire Press about a month ago…

“Hope all is well. Our organization wanted to bring to D.F.P.’s attention our recent publication, Mississippi Prison Writing from VOX PRESS We feel this book is an important cultural work which includes narratives and poetry from 30 inmate writers from several prisons throughout the state of Mississippi. In any case, we just wanted to make ourselves known to you for a possible interview, review, etc., or just to share our link with you.”

Cover art from the third volume

An excerpt

DEAD MAN WALKING 

The subject for this paper has been on my mind for some time now.  I hope I can give it the justice it deserves.  

The subject is about life sentences and about the length of time one is supposed to serve.  More importantly, what is the point of a life sentence?  When does the correctional aspect change to punitive and retributive?  

In the State of Mississippi prison system, life sentences fall into one of two categories: those sentenced before 1995 and those after.  We will be writing about people sentenced after 1995.  

A judge at the time of sentencing has the latitude to use discretion, he can impose a life sentence or life without the possibility of parole.  

A life sentence in Mississippi is supposed to hold out the hope of eventual release to the one sentenced, but it doesn’t.  M.D.O.C. has in its lack of wisdom misinterpreted the law and holds the position that everyone has life without.  We are not writing about the insanity of this position, but rather the effects it has on the individuals it is imposed upon.  

In multiple studies done on the criminal justice system it has been found that by taking the hope of eventual release away from a prisoner, you also take away the incentive to follow the rules so to speak.  You’ve created in essence an uncontrollable animal that answers only to itself for its actions.  I am happy to report that not all prisoners stoop to this level of conduct.  

I find myself in this situation with no hope of any type of future outside the prison system.  

Like others I’ve gone through various stages during my incarceration.  

First I had to accept that I was even in prison and that I might not get to go home any time soon.  I think you could say this is your bewildered stage.  At the same time you look at your surroundings and see they are simply terrible.  The roofs leak and the paint on the walls is drab and peeling off.  Everything is filthy and the toilets are overflowing.  The food is bad and at times inedible.  

You soon realize pretty quick that the vast majority of officers you come into contact with all possess double digit I.Q.s, the inmates mostly at the same level.  It took me about 6 months to accept my predicament and move on, some never do.  

Then you enter a stage where you find ways to improve not only your living conditions but your legal position too.  Most people do this and do it in various ways.  

I decided to work and do the best job possible at any task I was assigned to.  Need a really clean bathroom?  I was the man for the job!  This attitude upgraded me a year early from C custody to B custody which entitled me to better housing.  

I strived for years to show M.D.O.C. that underneath everything I was a model prisoner.  I always worked and I attended the Christian College.  I took any available educational course to show I was a changed man.  I volunteered at all the church services.  I’ve taken care of Alzheimer’s patients, I’ve always strived to be seen as part of the solution instead of part of the problem.  

For what?  Being someone completely different from the person I was all those years ago does not change a thing.  M.D.O.C. says they will never release me under any circumstances.  

So the question still begs to be answered, when did the sentence cease to be correctional and strictly become retributive?  While everyone is different so their times will not be the same time as mine.  Mine snuck up on me when I wasn’t aware.  What changed?  

I woke up one day after spending 12 plus years just on Parchman grounds and asked myself what’s the reason for my further existence?  There is none, with no hope for eventual freedom, what’s the point?  

So now I find myself as an elderly inmate in failing health with no viable reason for my existence.  Again what would be the point?  When man does not have an obtainable objective to work towards, men tend to give up.  

I’ve given up, I don’t have a reason for my existence anymore.  So what am I doing?  I guess I’m sitting here waiting to die…. “

-Roger Ewing

One of the things DFP is passionate about is giving a voice to the voiceless and that includes helping those that exactly that as well, no matter on how marginalized the voices may be in our society.

Most especially when most of prisoner aren’t being rehabilitated and are the brutalized victims of an industrial incarceration complex mainly fueled by atavistic narcotic laws as is our society’s present methods in dealing out the old fashioned crime and punishment model.

I’d like to thank Louis for reaching out regarding this project of his and all the prisoners involved, it’s one of those projects that if it doesn’t directly force criminal justice reformation, it will instigate discussion at the very least and hopefully put a human face to the animals (usually drug crazed according to propaganda) deemed fit for cages.

Check out the links below…

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780980194463

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780980194401

https://www.facebook.com/inmateartandwriting

http://voxpress.org/index.html?fbclid=IwAR11m3N_GrG1AItjwg-j6x8te6PT1a0vnPvAlU4QnBh_HoA2rX_kFE4vlz0

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dillinger