VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Marie D. Moldovan

Androgynous

I was but thirteen years of age,

You called me a disgusting fag,

Not the kind you roll and toke,

But instead, the one butted in joke.

What a joke!?!

You were my mother; you should have known better

To ask a question you didn’t want answered.

Seeking labels confining letter…

…To openly evoke spell treatment of a leper

Shunned by the societies jagged tip, 

…A double-edged…

…Eledge…

…disasters forked elegy..

Vibrating avalanches destructive lip.

Cracking without warning, thunder’s 

Unbolting divide,

Widening gap inside,

Luring me to the gates of war,

Weathering leathers branding scar,

Dragging me flip side down

Whittling time unknown

Burying chance in momentary anger,

Caverning conditions sibling fissure

To satisfy back wave hunger

…for meat tainted by beliefs toxic choke, 

…battered stroke after stroke…

And flavored in slavery’s lineage smoke.

Looking now to back then, watching, 

…replaying…

Your spin,

….Backwashing…

….Mind-numbing….

…moral squashing…

Seeing you act like a puppet in pin..

Recycling your programmin’.

Beating and agitating it in, …washers nonsense cycle,

Enslave… spin….cycle repeat…

Tearing apart my childhood room,

Swearing me to be my sister’s influential doom,

Convicting me of non-existent acts.

Hanging me on histories line,

..Shackling me to torture twine.

Rinse…repeat…spin…

Spin…

Hang…

Dry…

And fire..

Flamed without sin..

No moral win…

Regretfully

Weaving yourself fiction,

Back-peddling in..

Almost tripping…

In regrets retraction action..

Denying me merit of daily function:

Mother in your stead, sister, and protector.

Instead…

Rather, claim me a monster.

Bearing the brunt of beatings for my sister,

Shielding her from time’s closet alligator

And worst of all, protected her from the huff of your blow

(Something I could not do forever).

Topsy turvy. 

Success and gratitude early.

Yup that was my fate surly.

You’d think…

But

You caused me the opposite somehow,

Wow!!! Just wow!!!

Targeted me as failure’s reason, 

…meriting scar’s loyal legion…

Blaming me for life’s lousy treason,

….winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Bouncing blames ball…

Boing-boing-boing…

Tossed me tah excuse abuses reason,

Robbed me of childhoods spirited sow,

Billing me into responsibility beyond know, 

Dampening divinities, two-spirited glow.

….Low…

….Low…

My energy did go.

Nearly walking dead

But more likely a wolf, vampire bred.

Torn from all I knew 

Over a known identity that disgusted you

Of non-o-sexual in classification

….nun-o-sexual….

…androgynous in interpretation

…anˈdräjənəs…

….Tomboy in presentation 

….Divine masculine and feminine.

Once revered, now..

Rewritten as an abomination,

Featured on horror tv station.

Postered and sold as dangerous in matter

….With warnings of my apocalyptic nature.

Angelic. 

Godlike.

Blamed…

Nailed to oppression’s darkness

Pressed into slavery’s bloody grain, 

…Hard-pressed…

Tainting the pureness of my seed, 

Infusing it with violations stifling weed,

Enforcing confusion beyond life’s usual deed

In the name of conformities, misdeed.

With conflicting stride

You drowned me in fits of anger tide,

Resuscitated me cloaked as remorse’s bride,

Cried

…claiming love, but offering conditions broken thread

….Denied…

Spinning for yourself realities alternate web,

Attempting to veil everyone with you instead

Of accepting the fullness of cause in action view

And walking past judgement anew.

Unlocking-locking-unlocking…

…blocking…

Only to later ask me again to forgive you,

Claiming you did not fully understand then what you now do?

You were torn in belief to the point of split, 

The Hyde in you wanted my freak to thrive,

But Jekyll wanted it to break and jive,

…..Jeckell jacketing my Hydes…

…Hyde…

Bowing me in operation to fear’s queenly hive.

For something you instinctively knew

And didn’t need in question to pursue,

Punishing me for being a version of you 

That didn’t fit stereotypes limiting stew.

Honestly,

Can you blame me for an orientation

… Of no chemical obligation?

Blame me…

For not wanting to wear the

Shoes of hunter gatherer’s before me?

Bearing…

children early, 

Conforming to creation’s slavery?

You bore me as but a child,

A mother merely sixteen years old,

Burdened me with your life’s injury, painfully wild.

A product of 

Generational teenagers bearing offspring,

Decisions toned by traumas survival ring,

A restrictive primitive chain,

Locked in the fight or flight game,

Influencing societies turning grain.

I was punished for your pain.

…Punished…

For stepping outside society’s name.

Your actions moulded my process.

Seeking to understand the mess

I studied many ways of tradition,

Observed our family in question, 

Witnessed the oppressive tradition

Of being broken down till we turned to bottled gin.

Chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga.

Wishing not to ride my ancestral tracks

I determined at an early age 

It unwise to bring children into this cage, 

Noted my logical position be a nun,

A soldier holding a gun,

Or a hermit hidden from the sun.

Not of a homemaker playing procreation’s mage

Or rolled in constraint to the point of tv genie fame,

Forced to wield energy insanely lame

….poof…yes, master…poof…

…Narcissism mundane.

Chooo- chooo.

If creations story be one of fact and less of fiction,

Then, in my opinion….

Bearing children be one of immoral infliction,

Abusive to the point of addiction 

Andin a way self-consumption,

Not one of ethical creation.

Atom and Eve technically the same,

Eve being Atom’s clone isn’t that insane.

Humanity through he and she, then and after

Related in blood to each other,

Father being the mother 

and mother the being the father,

Sister and brother marrying one another,

Populating humanity through incest,

Diluting narcissisms broken nest

Is it really for me best?

To play the role defined by madness vest

Hiding my chi and conforming to chemical lust 

Simply because I have flowering breasts?

There is more than one way to plant a seed…

The physical nature is one of limited need.

Mother 

I am you, and you are me,

I am a branch and root of your tree,

We exist as one in blood.

Moulded by your Mudd.

Through me, you survive

…As my blood, through my blood…

And through procreation physically survive, 

….bloody mess….

But what if procreation is wrong?

What if the point was to heal

And break the cycle aiming weakness at Achilles heel,

Causing us to birth and slave children to broken frequency?

It is said wounds in spirit physically manifest,

So, what if we are just wounds at best

And embracing our spirit is the authentic way to exist?

I love you, mother that is true, 

…possibly, because I suffer from Stockholm syndrome…

(But don’t we all on some level or another?)

…possibly, because you are me and 

I’m bound in cellular narcissism…

Does it matter?

All that is important is…

I know you did the best with the trauma that scarred you,

And if I another version of you, I wish not the same for me as you.

For us I wish a thriving chance

So please forgive me as I cut this branch

…release caboose…

….cut lose…

And consider the act of true love at its best,

I will take the lesson in the gift of my raising and put it to the test,

Find the balance between right-wing east and left-wing west, 

And grow my heart beyond limits chest, 

Embracing the androgynous nature of my godly self, 

Without accepting the label wrought in fear’s need to print, box 

And shelf.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Dillinger

VOICES FROM THE FIRE:Kenneth Vincent Walker

From Rome to Ruins

Impoverished beyond

Belief; where relief has

Long past been viable

Option over abject grief.

Ostensibly, refusing to

Cease, as Man’s greed

Always gets in the way

Of genuine prosperity.

For how can we binge

Drink at college when

Our world thirsts and

Hungers knowledge?

These words are far

More prophetic than

Profound as empires

Long thought stable

Topple to the ground.

Deception Island

We’ve nowhere else

To go while we’re so

Hopelessly adrift.

Our crippled ship is

Limping onward to

Deception Island.

The crisp Antarctic

Bitter winds are stiff

As our embattled

Vessel and famished

Crew who seek but

Shelter in safe harbor.

With no fanfare nor

Reception just barren

Rock and fear here 

On Deception Island. 

Point of No Return

Nearly at the tipping

Point, the decisive

Point of no return;

As our heart rate

Has increased and

Perspiration beads

Upon our brow, our

Shallow breath, our

Trembling knees, a

Loss of taste and

Smell which indeed

Are indicative of the

Disease in this the

Black Plague of the

Twenty first century.

Glassy Stare

There’s this glassy

Stare which is so

Prevalent these days

In oh so many eyes.

It’s the look of dire

Hopelessness and

Despair driven by

Fear that the future

Is lost and the youth

Have no say in the

Outcome of their lives.

It’s a hollow feeling

Physically expressed

That can’t be shaken or

Stirred by mere words

Disguised as empathy.

For what hope is there

For humanity while

There’s this glassy

Stare which is so

Prevalent these days In oh so many eyes

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Chris Dorian

Broken?

We exist in dimly lit, dingy, small rooms with painted block walls or some 2020 version of 70s wood paneling
Surrounded by wires, and machines, and monitors, and pseudo concerned individuals asking if you have not just a plan but means
Then we transition to cozy couches, zen gardens, and inspirational quotes for about an hour at a time talking about all the terrible shit in our lives
Struggling with how sad or suicidal we really are if the only thing stopping the finality of death being we worry about how others would be impacted
But we know this is not life
Or at least how we should exist
“Have you tried live, laugh, love” someone asks because Facebook told them to
We’ve probably tried it all short of recharging our vitality by sunning our assholes in the great wide open turning our rears to the sun
Well, some might have even done that
Tried everything, maybe even the drugs
Not the fun kind (but we’ve tried them too)
The prescribed meds
But only to stop or doubt the reward
I mean, at the end of the day, we still want to feel
To not be numb or blunted
And we want our dicks to still work
Put us in nature
Pound some drums and let us feel bass in our soles and souls
Be an ear
Be a shoulder
Be a presence
Just don’t be an asshole who tells me we are lucky we are privileged enough to be sad about shit because others have it worse and we will get better if we did something for ourselves and thought happy thoughts.
Let us express ourselves without it being perceived as hostility
Or weakness
Or being pussies who can’t “man up”
I cried today
I’ll cry again
Maybe even before lunch
Don’t look away or dismiss
Hand me a tissue
Better yet, keep the box for yourself and let me let them flow proudly
Just don’t expect any of this to actually cure or fix us
WE. ARE. NOT. BROKEN.
We just aren’t our best selves right now
But we are getting there
And if the product has some cracks we embrace it
It gives us character
It gives us history
It gives us hope because if we sealed them once before we can again
We ask you don’t walk for us
Walk with us
Walk away from us
Just don’t get in the fucking way

I’m 1 

Today, I celebrate my first birthday
Though I’ve been on earth about 40 years, a year ago I had a rebirth after complete immolation
It seems I was covered by someone else’s gasoline for so long
It’s almost like I had comfort in the suffocating fumes
Finally, like a protesting monk I decided to strike the match and bask in the incineration
It was like a warm hug I had been neglected of for so long
Excruciating at first, in fact, so bad that I had become numb
Unless that was just my nerve endings, the source of feeling, being destroyed
But I knew regeneration and healing would be on the horizon
And, if I was transformed to ash, possibly reincarnation
See, one can never avoid lies
One can never avoid manipulation and betrayal
One can never avoid being taken for granted
But my soul had learned it doesn’t need to tolerate it
And that moment created the spark that was catalyst for a new life

This is getting old and I ain’t getting younger either

woke up today
finally feeling
good
believed I just may have beaten the malaise
one hour and it’s back to normal
whatever that means
dread
paranoia
fight/flight activated
only semblance of drive is to exist
survive
not thrive
and just barely
the type of state where I desire to reopen my wounds
of the metaphorical and literal
not to prove
not for spectacle
not for you
but for me
the sole purpose being
to bleed

Register 7

Everyday
I see people at their worst
Confused and disoriented
Disorganized and delirious
Talking to Jesus
Being Jesus
Being Obama’s spouse
Refusing medication
Cursing, yelling, threatening
Punching and kicking objects
Punching and kicking walls
Punching and kicking…people
Biting
Throwing piss and shit
Eating staples and antennae and screws
Reopening scars and scabs that exist for years
And just as quickly as they enter my path
They are gone without a trace
And then one day they’re ringing me up at the grocery store
And I know, if even for just that single moment, they are doing
OK

Superhuman Skin

I have superhuman skin
I can assist and rescue others with reckless abandon for my well-being
I can put on the suit and tie the boots tight and enter the world solely for others
I have no qualms about taking the words, the hits, the consequences when necessary

I have superhuman skin
except when I need a hero
My brain is a villain
My heart is a foe
My behaviors a nemesis
Enemies that sap my will and strength and leave me paralyzed in fear
I hold my kryptonite

So I have superhuman skin
until I need to wear it for me.

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Chad Christopher Dixon

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Rocío Iglesias

The Good Half

When you said you only wanted half of me,

did you mean the top or the bottom half?

Maybe you meant the outside half and not the inside half

Not the half that dives into the ocean but continually emerges the same person,

A salt-covered osprey shaking off the sand,

Looking you in the eye and asking you where you’ve been

Not the half that learned to fight like my mother with words that shoot to kill

No, you wanted the kill

The deer

The fawn falling softly on the mossy ground

Not the hoofs thrashing though the duff, stopping abruptly with her head raised sniffing the air

You wanted the half that flies, not the half that escapes

Fuck You for Dying

You–

gouger of eyes

plucker of stars

clear girl, vanishing in smoke like a magic show

Me–

making a permanent mourning cross between my eyebrows

begging you, forever on the run like a wave, not to return the ocean

I have been known to say that yours was a windsong,

tall and stoic like a ceiba,

and dangerous like it too

then suddenly sad, like a long journey home from a joyous trip

Your body inhabited by echoes and maudlin voices,

and when we would least expect it, shielded under the covers with only a flashlight between us,

a bird would shift free from inside you and fly away leaving us both aghast and delighted

You and me–

a conversation between angels 

a violent sob before the sea, sad fury, unstoppable

we were made of everything

Dew Drops

My mother loved me hard enough to break my heart forever, 

to split it wide so that cedar and ironwood trees would root where the fault lines stood

she knew, even as I grew inside her, that I was her wish come true

her little girl

She named me after a soft morning shower, in the hopes that I would bring her peace

Instead, she has often been left to wonder where on earth I came from

and forced to be the impatient steward of my weird

hours spent searching for perfect baby girl dresses

that I eschewed for ripped t-shirts and bare feet

She used to pull me under the covers on Sunday mornings and wrap me up in her sheets

showing me, even then, that I am worth holding on to 

Her love is like sunlight, 

turning the watermark of expulsion and diaspora into something

unbent, beguiling yet somehow honest

shimmering in cloudy water,

the last gleaming thing in this gutted, splintered earth

Everybody Wants to Own Me

My independence looks a lot like fear when held up to the light

My readiness to accept that my hands are only a reflection of the baggage they carry

That I am only human, and I don’t know how to love you past my own risk—

It will get to you

You will want to be my savior, my medic 

And I will let you, I will use you as a door to somewhere out of here

Safe in your arms I will shed parts of me I thought I needed, one at a time like baby teeth 

Until what is left is the deepest naked, 

The final layer of consent 

You will be part of this moment that I chose

Until the next moment when I may choose to not include you,

And in that moment of change, will you have the courage to leave me alone?

Or will your hands clench to the strings of me

Clipping my wings

Stapling my feet to the ground

Tell me I cannot make it in this hard world without you

Will you say that I am only soft because the world told me to be a soft woman?

Or will you see that I am soft despite what this world has done to steal my softness?

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: R. Keith

VOICES FROM THE FIRE:Mark James Andrews

Assisi Triptych

Francis

St. Frankie plucked a strawberry off the curb in a snow patch 

on 8 Mile Road and planted her in the shag carpet at New York 

Dominic’s big ranch crib on Windmill Point, another white lie 

as the big wet snowflakes of the false Spring killed the crocuses. 

The strawberry’s black patch was tropical.  She danced to her 

chosen radio station.  In the eyes of St. Frankie her hair rose up 

off her skull like ten penny nails and cascaded to her shoulders 

like a stringer of bullheads.  St. Frankie longed to hear the drip 

of the kitchen sink.

“Here’s the play.  You’re gonna get yours up front.  The long 

green for the trick comes out right now.”  He fans out his pocket 

wad and lets it fly, a green shower for her.  “I’m gonna play the 

piano.  You’re gonna slow dance.  3 numbers.  Then I’m through 

with you.  Don’t stop till I exit this room.  Then scoop up your cash, 

dress up and hustle your ass out of here.  Be quick about it and no 

funny business.  Use your cell to get a cab back to your beat.”

From the perch of his piano bench St. Frankie eyeballed her all 

through Misty and part way through Clair de lune as the chords

slipped frombetween his fingerslike flowers and then it was all 

white and black keys until his exit to the patio midway through 

La Fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with The Flaxen Hair), 

his exit outdoors where Assisi the statue stationed in the dead 

flower box stood tall in a straight jacket of snow.

Frank

“Look kid, always pay as you go and never full price.  

Cash money is clean.  No hidden fees. There is no 

tomorrow in the current moment.  Sleep till noon 

every day if you can but never lose any sleep. Never ask.  

Always let the women come to you and always wear 

a raincoat. Remember you create your own 24 hours.  

You’ll be OK as long as you’re set to 98.6.  I’m not 

talking about the radio dial here.  Oh yeah, your chances 

are always best if you live in the city where you got a lot 

of choices.  It’s the human element.”

I’m not a seeker of Frank’s wisdom but I listen.  He’s a 

friend of certain people and I don’t want to get into how 

he got connected to me.

Every year I draw him aces against the Taxman, a matter 

of washing sundry 1099’s from his Hazel Park harness 

horse track winnings.  I do it again on a sunny April 

afternoon.  That done, we’re in his 1989 Cadillac 

Fleetwood Brouham to motor to Jack’s Waterfront for a 

late lunch.  “Fuck the Prius crowd.  A BUNCH OF 

FUCKING LOSERS!”

Frankie

We walk straight to the bar.  “I’ll pass on eating.  

You go ahead.  I gotta take a piss.  Order me the usual.” 

I do after he walks off.  She brings them.  Long Necks.  

I tell her, “Better bring him a glass.”

He’s a particular man.  He wants everything right.  

Money back at tax time and sunshine in April.

He wants to drive an old time land yacht at 11 miles per 

gallon for the leg room and the service in max comfort 

of a $40 blow job from a crack whore.

He wants a glass for his beer of choice and she brings 

over a nice frosted mug for him.  I take a hit from the 

bottle and then he’s back.  “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?” 

“What?” I say.  He points to the frosted mug.  

“I CAN’T DRINK OUTTA THAT.” 

He stalks off and returns with a short High-Ball glass.

“FUCK THAT.”  He points to his frosted mug.  I take a 

good hit out of the bottle.  When she comes with my Crab 

Louie, he says “Give us 2 more, sweetheart.”  

She grabs my empty and then his quarter full bottle 

pouring the remains in his little glass.  He screams 

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?”  It startles her.  

Me too.  “What?” she says.  He points to the little glass. 

“CAN’T YOU SEE I’M TRYING TO MAINTAIN A 

FUCKING TEMPERATURE HERE?”

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: James Maj

VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Carmen Grover

The Monster Shake 

I have never pondered the strength of a handshake…how hard to squeeze, how long to hold, how much to shake and when to release? 

Like my anger! 

The tale of the father who was battered and now himself is abusive…why? 

Fighting it, resisting it and even hating it, but it’s much more arduous. 

Exploding I start to shake, I am scared…women are violent too… 

Don’t let the kids see… 

I saw my father mistreat us…and my father his mother before… 

A skipped generation. 

I can’t take it, when my limitless is threatened I discharge. 

The grasp on me stronger than nothing other! 

My kids, oh GOD, my kids! 

Big promises withheld, 

Big love constantly shown…until I Blow! 

Embarrassed and ashamed 

Wonderful days ruined by one weensy moment  

Is this the time they will remember just like me. 

The broken plates,  

chasing,  

the hiding,  

yelling,  

the pleading and the holding. 

Devastates us. 

Fuels me 

To cause reprimand. 

Hate it!  

Hate me! 

Forget it…forget what? 

Engrained productions 

For our sake forgotten just the same…only it happened! 

Even still I feel I dreamt it…feeling nuts.  

We always did, they always will. 

Mommy are you happy? 

They ask… 

What version converted? 

I leave just as my mother would, I cry unaided just as my father did. 

Hate it! (the monster) 

Hate me! (the human) 

Unable to open the cage in front of them all. 

Leaving to protect them from… 

I squeeze onto the perfect moments, fearing what will come… 

How it will be ruined once it’s over. 

The shake lessens but the quake lives… 

Holding on, wanting not  

To clutch the “thing” that lives inside 

The monster under the bed that feeds on little crumbs that fall from us 

The thing is ravenous…it’s alive… 

Feeding on pieces of us as we die…long and slow 

Replication absorbed in the offing… 

Reminding you it is never sated. 

Hey! Hi, Squeeze my hand…let’s shake on it…