VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Shane Allison

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Roz Washington

Hourglass

An attractive embodiment of a Cream flavor

lets stream down these streets of Arizona flowing infatuation with merely the eye contact as whisk by the palm trees…

I suggest playful moments for the time we’ve allotted for each other

sinking grains of crystal situation emerging as rare elements forged in this desert that contains an oasis…

a slowdown of everything when engaged in vocals of compiled syllables we just turned a corner

she liked the momentum in how she placed herself to hold me secure in a safe place

not about to deny that affectionate energy

I just take it in

the Moon is rising

the Hourglass has flipped

now we’ve arrived to a different timespan

carnal desires reign our minds

a glide of her fingertips upon my epidermis

the driving has changed

drifted I must say…

give me the spent time with your mind and I’ll give mine

-Benny Butters

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Tony Brewer

Morning Pages

Every time I type your name

it’s different like forms of snow

that don’t matter while shoveling

I can hear your punctuation

written out how to breathe

where to stop and start

over and over

A million notes without music

typed too fast transposing

letters & saying things wrong

edited later toward strange

meanings nattering at editors

I know who you are

grimmer & darker

negative easy when no one

tells you to frown

Make it til you break it

& burst like a distant star

gassy old brilliant

Walk through every open door

is advice I hear

unaware where I am going to

Who can parse a voice – you?

Every time I spell you out

a thing less useful conjured

slumps bidden to a threshold

while I explain how one

gets better writing

so as not to forget

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: James Maj

“you realizing Jesus watches you in the bathtub”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Luis Berriozabal

The Lows 

The lows are too low.

The blues are too blue.

These feet can’t go on.

They get in my way.

The wind does not blow.

I march to no drum.

This cold is too cold.

It freezes my brain.

I hope against hope.

Without you I lose.

This bitter lemon

life is not ideal.

The last gap is here.

I am on my own

naked in my soul.

The lows are too low.

Bright Days

Bright days will come

when this darkness 

goes to sleep. I 

can only hold my

breath for so long.

Bright days will come 

again when the

sun makes it out

from its slumber.

I wait right here.

The moon remains

in the sky at

daylight. I know

it will not be

there for too long

like the darkness 

I feel inside.

It consumes me

and all the light

I was saving.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Shane Allison

All You Can Eat

Eat Eat more Kielbasa smoked sausages

More chicken ‘n

                  Bisquits

Drown the fries with melted cheese, spread on

Extra mayo

Carry it globed at the corners of

                                              Mouth

Forget the napkins

Fish Almandine covered in

                                lemon juice

Homemade, hand-pattied hamburgers

Squeeze out the grease with spatula

Cuts of onions sizzlin’

                        in animal fat.

Mounds of buttered mashed potatoes with

Giblet gravy

Buttered rolls next to glistening

Mountains of stuffing

Canned stewed tomatoes in ground beef

Pork chops, breaded

Texas Hash followed by

                                  200 calories of pound cake

Thirsty

For Beer Sunkist chocolate milk Mountain Dew sugar water

Careful heart attack,

                      disrupt flow of blood

Arteries, clog

Orda a pizza with the works

Deep fried doughnuts

                  glazed

                  In sugar

Twenty Buffalo wings to the couch

                                              And burp

Too much salt!

Baby Back Ribs! Baked potato

Fudge nut brownies

Forget the salad bar.

Everyday a few mushrooms.

A mini big spoon of Mac & cheese will do

Fill the plate high

Throw in some cut up greens, cabbage

Check yr cholesterol,

Take a shot for diabetes

& order egg rolls

pack two under size

                         46 belt

pass out on the bed

wake up, diarrhea

up stomach of roast beef

regurgitate

binge on bacon

               still chewing

ham hocks at Henry’s Kitchen

back to Piccadilly’s and gobble dumplings

by the plateful

meat wrapped in a napkin & stuffed in purse

swallow shish kabobs with Snapple

ham on toasted bun

grilled cheese on white bread

in a dorm room

steak ‘n eggs

Financial District, Sunday morning

prime example for a glutinous nation

salt sugar animal parts & stir

coffee & cigarettes, Starbucks

drop dead faster

set a place for the homeless & hungry

give ’em cornbread

                     in Somalia

Gumbo, Jambalaya &

                          sweet and sour beef

Bologna, pepperoni for the malnourished

Blacks Jews with potato salad corn on the cob

Stay thin with Powerbar

Pop anotha diet pill

Take a laxative

exercise video

Crowd in the gym

Consume & balloon to

                     A bigga dress size

Binge, purge

Chest pain, sweat

Make room for ice cream

High blood pressure

                  Consequence

For Western Civilization consumption

Houses a cookin’

Fish fries in Brooklyn

Bake sales in Queens

Here’s a beer,

Drumstick, have another

And this is a plate of cheesecake you deserve it

I’m in it for some Cock and Ass

I’m in it

For some cock

And ass

I’m in it

For some cock

And ass.

I throw the cock around.

I throw the ass around.

Bend down.

I want some cock.

I want some ass.

I’m in it

For some cock

And ass.

Talkin’ about cock

Speakin’ about ass

Lots of cock.

Masses of ass.

Lots and lots and lots of cock,

Masses beyond masses of ass

Sitting on my face.

Lots of cock coming at ya.

I’m in for some cock and ass

Voice

Now Hiring

Today I filled out an application at Pat’s Supermarket

Tony’s Quick Stop is hiring

World Class Beauty is hiring for stylists, but I don’t know a thing about doing hair

There’s a sign outside of Circle K that reads, Looking for Smiling Faces

Bob’s Auto could use a mechanic but I don’t know a radiator from a carburetor

I put in an application at Hobbit Hoagies but they never called.

Bill’s Bookstore needs a bookseller for the spring semester.

The Laundry Room needs laundry attendants.

Vinyl Fever is hiring

Lively Vo-tech is now enrolling

Bagel Bagel is hiring

Subway is looking for people to join their team

Kosta’s is taking applications

Exxon is hiring. I used to work there back when I was twenty-two but quit

Because my boss was an asshole

Wilson’s Barbeque and G & G Restaurant needs prep-cooks

Cash Register Auto Insurance need a receptionist

Stop ‘n Shop is hiring

Day’s Inn needs a desk clerk

Alberton’s needs a baker

I applied for a deli help position

I hear the breakfast cooks at The Village Inn make good money

Zewditu Mart has a help wanted sign in the window but I think they only hire Muslims.

I could be wrong but I don’t think I am

Renegade Barber needs a barber

Fantastic Nails needs a pedicurist

Citgo is hiring and so is Publix

Wal-Mart pays ten bucks an hour

Calico Jacks needs a bar back

China Buffet needs a cook

Applications at Arby’s, Winn-Dixie

Best Western needs an auditor

Border’s needs a barista

New Leaf needs a cashier

Background check at the Nail Trap

Registered at employment agencies

Resume downloaded, printed out for job fairs

I’m leaving tomorrow to teach English in Korea

Frequently Asked Questions about Poems Written about Ham Sandwiches

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I received a letter saying I have made it through the first round of ham sandwich poems being considered. What does that mean?

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Do you accept poems about egg salad sandwiches?

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If I have no previously published poems about ham sandwiches to list, can I still submit?

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VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Andreas Fleps

Causeway

The path you were on

rolled up its tongue

like a faded red carpet

and swallowed itself. 

You opened your mouth

to speak of it and your 

voice fell out as silence,

like a baby bird from its

nest.

You felt hope pass away

inside you, but couldn’t find

the corpse.

Maybe the rumors are true:

how beyond the hope no 

longer there, another will hope

for you, or how a demon 

is just an angel that hasn’t 

been hugged yet.

Though you always knew

grief was a window beneath

your skin and it would shatter

open, the world rushing into you

like an intemperate gust of wind 

blowing your breath away.

You also knew there was 

no loss you could not house.

So you repaired your hands

and reset your eyes and realigned

your feet and reshaped your heart 

back into the shape of a kiss and

carried on.

You, who knew our breaking is 

malleable and bruises have sunrises

and wounds are wet clay, ready to

mold the dream inside hell’s

mind; where the air has not 

been screamed to ash and horizons

are not made of smoke and piece

by piece, you built a causeway

out of your body for the light

to cross.

the greener grass is fucked too

outside my grandparent’s condo in naples,

florida, a landscaper dressed in sweat 

is digging out the singed, exanimate grass

to be replaced by fresh sod,

but the sun will continue to cauterize its wounds

and clouds will forget to weep for weeks on end 

and dogs will continue to piss out of remembrance,

as the greener grass from some other side

will be stunned at how swiftly the world

can siphon the color out of a face;

how even a blade of grass can perish 

in an astonishing amount of ways;

how life isn’t faithful to anything for long.

to study the living

is to be an expert

at dying. 

Frozen

I am starving for numbness;

the butterflies in my stomach

are frostbitten. 

I freeze my thoughts in this 

white page like an explorer’s 

brain in a glacier

that knew it was fucked

when its vessel became

another piece of ice. 

And I might have to abandon

my tongue to survive,

my voice too heavy to carry

across miles of desolate possibilities,

and my veins are bursting pipes 

in a home shaped like loneliness;

in a home with hope like coughing

furnaces, trying to utter what’s 

no longer inside it.

My life is a fridge that preserves 

(nothing)ness,

and poems aren’t blankets, so a part

of me is always shivering like bee wings 

in frigid realities, 

desperate to save the hive

and some sweetness

and a god,

but my heart is as blue-lipped as the sky

I couldn’t kiss through walls of grey.

Yet a pen is frozen to my fingers,

and it keeps writing:

And then there was light,

And then there was light,

rubbing verbiage and syntax 

together, as if branches

over a dry pile of breath

could give birth to a spark

the sun would worship. 

I Didn’t Ask For This

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay

To mould me man? Did I solicit thee

From darkness to promote me?

John Milton, Paradise Lost

I suppose in my mother’s womb,

my initial heartbeats must have been

a star opening its eyes—

Thump: This will burn. 

Thump: There’s so much darkness

to sort through.

A first breath: A door opening,

all of life bursting in at once. 

Birth: the participation trophy

in atrophy—

Are we born to share in the loss?

To hug what’s only ever being 

let go?

To stitch unseen colors into 

each other’s iris’?

To fill each other’s skies

with clearer horizons?

I wish I knew. I wish I didn’t have

to make wishes, so of course, I wish

I hadn’t been born; of course, my mother

has told me with tears becoming her lips

how love is what pulled me out of her body

towards the only light there is, both swelling

and retracting, full and incomplete like

hunger.

I’ve always had the desire to wave, 

though I never knew if it was hello

or goodbye, snagged in the middle

of eternity. 

Thankfully, I’ll remember my death

as much as I remember my unasked for 

arrival.

And I suppose the quiet will hold my 

fresh corpse like my mother first

held me; maybe kiss my head away

along with the whisper that isn’t there:

Hello, it’s been so loud for so long,

hasn’t it?

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Mark James Andrews

Happy Birthday Mother Fucker

I’ll tell you I never liked ice fishing

and forget about going on sunny days

especially as late as the Ides of March

when JC was assassinated, the other JC

the one whacked 

by the Brutus and Cassius gang

Julius F. Caesar knife, knife, knife

bad juju and damning hubris

but I committed to the ice fish trip

and Z arrives at my crib at High Noon

with a James Brown scream

and commences to chanting

his best MC5 Grande Ballroom

White Panther pantomime

Brothers and Sisters, and, and

right now, right now

It’s time to catch us some 

righteous yellow perch

Mother Fucker.

Z is booming at the wheel of his Volks

reverting to his best coalbilly patois

Z always a bit tongue tied to his past life 

in Pennsylvania anthracite hill country.

He only hit the eastside of Detroit

a hot minute after his First Holy Communion

a generation removed from the dreaded mines.

Z was a punk poet, roustabout and raconteur

a Wayne State University Mass Comm dropout

now working the afternoon shift reefer fueled 

in a tool and die job shop called Wolverine

operating the various jigs, molds and machines

now playing hooky with me

talking his talk with his mind on vacation

and we’re off rolling on poetry and poses

Cribari Zinfandel, Tall Boys of Schlitz

thin rolled pin joints of Rat Boo

and a mess of gear of tip-up poles

spools of monofilament, short canvas stools

and his Dad’s four foot mining bar 

one end of it set up to pry, the other a sharp

digging point prized now as an ice spud

a family heirloom transformed 

stashed in VW Bug front trunk on route

to Moe’s Bait Shop for wax worms

to be impaled on tiny #16 barbed hooks.

Fast forward four plus decades to a meet-up

a surprise birthday party for Brother Z  

all arranged by his estranged wife

on an April Sunday at the Blue Goose Inn

an Old School watering hole off Lake St. Clair

Big Band jazz playing by Planet D Nonet

Z bespectacled per usual

now more handsome with receding hair line

graying combed back and a billy goat beard

Z telling me he’s down state for a hoped for

conjugal visit in wifey’s condo also off lake 

he stationed now in the unlikely confines

of a midcentury modern decked out house

in the boonies of the Michigan thumb

in a small town with a Walmart Supercenter

a town with the redeeming name of Bad Axe

and now we spoke quietly of future plans

new tales of Beatnik Glory and future poesy

Z hoping to reunite with wife in the ‘burbs

and him and me to be running buddies again

new explorations of lost urban neighborhoods

with a trio of scout/tracker pit bulls 

all in matching radiation suits

Z clothed in a Super Fly suit with a gas mask

me stark naked save for a varsity jacket

last worn at a 1969 Stooges show.

About then his wife rolled up with the cake

a lone candle lit and decorated in a squiggly font

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOTHER FUCKER

with a Duke Ellington playing and we didn’t know

that within the week Z would Take the “A” Train

straight to the boneyard.

I’m not saying the ice was thin but it was warm out

enough to get springtime frisky in shirt sleeves

incongruous to my brain and balance

no ice cracking, if anything spots were slushy

but I was scared shitless despite the beer drank

and Rat Boo smoked speeding on I-75 

and we hauled our shit out on the lake

the gear balanced on a red flying saucer sled

with a pull rope dragged by me while Z 

stalked for the deep spot where the perch would be

with the family cherished coal bar in hand 

searching for the drop off in the lake 

where we fished from a rowboat in summer

Z scanning the tree line on shore for his bearings

and huzzah the spudding began

down, up, down up, knife,knife, knife 

forever in the afternoon

mother fuck, this ice must be a foot thick

and then I spied not 100 feet away a grouping

of ready-made fishing holes just waiting

among human evidence of a Colt 45 bottle 

and abandoned undersize perch frozen stiff

but damn if these holes weren’t frozen over

so what? just a skim of fucking ice

and Z on the task like a bird dog

coal bar clenched firmly in fist

the sheer force and momentum of his thrust

on the very first downstroke

he lost his grip

on a surprise first shot breakthrough

and the repurposed family treasure

transported from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

to Detroit Factoryland

was thrown through the ice pretending to be ice

in the small inland Lake Minnewanna

in the Metamora-Hadley State Recreation Area

to rest at lake bottom maybe forever.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Danny D. Ford

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Kevin M. Hibshman

Different Day

It’s a different day.

Hope registers as a pain very familiar yet

impossible to locate.

Last night tossed aloft on a pure wave of

intoxication.

It’s a different day.

I wake up feeling strange.

Everything looks the same, but the air has shifted,

altering cognition.

I recognize the stains.

It’s a different day.

Sunshine haze filters through a venusian dreamscape,

milky-blue.

The mirror ablaze with reluctant shadows eaten slowly.

Same old room.

Four walls compete to squeeze me tight until

it becomes difficult to breathe.

Thinking of you.

Alone

My nights are bad and long.

My friends with talent have all moved on.

They left to chase the big time in populous places with

at least two airports each.

My friends without prospects are raising children,

cleaning up after their pets.

They want to talk about divorce settlements and

mortgage payments.

My old, once reliable drinking buddies only leave the

house to attend A.A. Meetings or prayer circles.

Kicking their various addictions has left them with no

sense of humor at all.

No Problem Officer

The cop on his bike glances at me rather disinterestedly.

He knows that I am only looking to harm myself.

Crying In The Rain

Cuz it’s gone, daddy, gone.

All the love in the world smoked like

a cigarette,

Reduced to ash.

The awful taste in my mouth won’t wash out.

Are You There?

Hi!

It’s crazy eyes!

What are you doing tonight?

I got the strangulation fever.

Will you resign to meeting me anywhere?

Hey!

It’s now 9:45.

I am dressed to impress.

I just need a ride.

How about getting tore up from the floor up?

Anyplace but mine is fine.