Gloom Town

By Phil Huffy

 

On the morning of the Fourth,

dismal Main Street resembles its old self for a bit

as an animated presence transforms

its customarily derelict appearance.

 

Who doesn’t want to see the parade,

the fire trucks and wait to sample

flagrantly red hot dogs

served courtesy of the Knights of Columbus?

 

But the hopeless, unstoppable

march of progress in another direction

is starkly apparent.

 

The parade’s annual route,

briefly populated by cheerful throngs,

will proceed through a shabby corridor

of empty storefronts with tired paint,

where once a vibrant commerce had transpired.

 

Only a few businesses remain,

most on the lowest rungs

of commercial enterprise.

 

It has been years since mill workers and tradesmen,

thriving on shift work and overtime, bought boats

and bikes and snowmobiles with relative ease.

 

In those past glorious days they had gathered,

talking of decks and camps and better trucks

while pondering a future as bright and happy

as the holiday itself.

 

first published by Fourth & Sycamore

On the morning of the Fourth,

dismal Main Street resembles its old self for a bit

as an animated presence transforms

its customarily derelict appearance.

 

Who doesn’t want to see the parade,

the fire trucks and wait to sample

flagrantly red hot dogs

served courtesy of the Knights of Columbus?

 

But the hopeless, unstoppable

march of progress in another direction

is starkly apparent.

 

The parade’s annual route,

briefly populated by cheerful throngs,

will proceed through a shabby corridor

of empty storefronts with tired paint,

where once a vibrant commerce had transpired.

 

Only a few businesses remain,

most on the lowest rungs

of commercial enterprise.

 

It has been years since mill workers and tradesmen,

thriving on shift work and overtime, bought boats

and bikes and snowmobiles with relative ease.

 

In those past glorious days they had gathered,

talking of decks and camps and better trucks

while pondering a future as bright and happy

as the holiday itself.

 

First published by Fourth & Sycamore

 

Phil Huffy had a long career doing something else entirely.  Now he writes all manner of short pieces at his kitchen table in upstate New York.  Publications for 2019 will include  Gravel, Raw Dog Press, Hedge Apple and Orchards Poetry Review.

 

 

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The Switchman’s Daughter

  By Vicente Huidobro

  The railroad switchman’s little house is located close to the tracks, at the base of a mountain so steep only certain unique trees can climb their way up
the slope. Taking hold with their sharp roots, they cling to the dry earth till they reach the top.
     The little wooden hut is falling down because of the constant shaking and clamor.  The hut is on a twenty-meter embankment near to the intersection of three railroad lines.  The switchman lives there with his wife, watching the trains laden with ghosts pass on their way to various cities.  Hundreds of trains. trains running from north to south, trains from the south heading north. Each day, month, year. Thousands of trains with millions of ghosts, crushing the way through the mountain’s hollows.
     His wife, a good woman, aids him in directing the trains along the right tracks.  The responsibility for so many satisfied lives has imposed on their faces
a tragic mask.  They are barely able to smile when gazing down on their little daughter, a tiny three-year-old, so delicate, whose childish gestures evoke flowers and doves.
     The trains tear through the countryside with the clash of iron, of long metal piecings dragged from an entire city that strives to set itself free, a city of ghosts now without chains, drunk on freedom.
     With utter confidence, the switchman’s daughter plays among the trains that travel her mountain.  She’s unaware that in the city rich children amuse themselves with trains as tiny as mice as they scrape over rails of tin. She possesses the largest trains in the world . . .and now begins to regard them with scorn.
     The daughter is an enchanting little child who lives without worry, so free it
seems she has chosen not to become close to anybody.  One might think that an earlier train, passing through, left her by chance there, beside the tracks.
     Her parents, however, never cease watching her; while there is still time, they spoil her, adore her.
     They know that one day a train will kill her.
Vicente Huidobro is a Chilean writer quite well known during the early part of the past century. 
Translator Thomas Feeny teaches Romance languages at North Carolina State University, where he’s been since 1970. A baseball fan, he’s written a number of poems dealing with the ups and downs involved in following that sport.

A Kiss Awakening As Lightning

By Bill Wolak

1 The Wind Kissing Your Bruises

 

Bill Wolak has just published his fifteenth book of poetry entitled The Nakedness Defense with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared recently in Naked in New Hope 2018, The 2017 Seattle Erotic Art Festival, Poetic Illusion, The Riverside Gallery, Hackensack, NJ, the 2018 Dirty Show in Detroit, 2018 The Rochester Erotic Arts Festival, and The 2018 Montreal Erotic Art Festival.

At the Closing of the Shop

By Tom Probasco

 

I swept the floor

and washed the windows,

emptied the ashtrays,

and shined shoes.

 

I filled the pop machine

and sorted the bottles,

put soap in the lather dispenser,

and shined shoes.

 

I straightened the magazines

and counted my change,

pulled the blind at six o’clock,

and shined shoes.

 

And for years before that,

and for years after,

he stood behind a special chair,

and cut,

 

and cut,

and cut,

and cut,

and cut hair.

 

Now, in twelve days,

he’ll walk out,

into whatever weather has arrived that day,

and never come back.

 

Tom Probasco has been a librarian at Central Library in downtown Indianapolis for over twenty years and published poems in a couple early Indiana Writers Center publications, Inprint and one of the Indiannual volumes.  When he thinks of work, his years as a shoeshine boy in his father’s barbershop in Xenia, Ohio and stacking hay bales on wagons for the farmers that were his neighbors outside of town stand out as the real thing from a long time ago, and time just seems weirder all the time. He’s also a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby which exists to promote a national policy called Carbon Fee & Dividend to put a price on carbon emissions.

Baptism in the Dead Sea

By Steve Brammell

 

The stones on the bottom

were slippery,

the water like oil

against my legs–

this sea where you cannot drown.

 

A single tourist

floated upright

as if lounging in a chair.

 

I understood

there would be no preacher

with a hand under my back

and scripture to welcome

me up from the grave.

 

I dove in head first,

kept my eyes closed as warned,

stayed down with full lungs

but felt a buoyancy

try to expel me

as though some secret

farther down needed guarding.

 

I broke through the surface,

a split second of sight

to witness what I hoped

would be a sinless world,

then the salt on my face

got into those wandering eyes

and I knew the old God

still reigned

in the lowest place on earth,

blinding me

for the curiosity

that brought me here,

my skin glittering

like Lot’s wife

the rest of the day

as I tried to find

fresh water.

 

 

Steve Brammell has lived many places and has toiled at many jobs as varied as carpenter, bus driver, social worker, restaurant manager, sommelier,  gardener, and technical writer, editing manuals for nuclear power plants and pitching news stories to media about medical research. During his years in Birmingham, Alabama, he wrote for Alabama MagazineBusiness Alabama Monthly, and Birmingham Magazine, where he had his own column every month, looking at life in the city through a poet’s eyes. Brammell is a native Hoosier who finally returned home. He lives and writes in Indianapolis where he’s employed in the wine trade. He graduated from Wabash College, recently had a poem published in The RavensPerch Literary Journal and has one that will be published soon in Flying Island. Brammell just completed a manuscript of poems about living in the Deep South and is looking for a publisher.

 

 

At a Loss

By Kai’Leaf Ratliff                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
I coughed up all night, Nalusa Falaya,
Midwestern sky. That December 1st denotes,
a reverence for our father under these very clouds,
piers from the harbor to the sea; we all must
pass through. A Midwestern cold,
wet cough, serrated vessels, clogged with loss,
condensates a whisper that rebukes the dark;
til it perishes in morning’s breath.
                                                                                                                                                   
Kai’Leaf Ratliff has studied literature and poetry at the Evergreen State College in Washington state. As a queer African America writer, his work is mostly subversive: focusing mainly on his travels, subcultures, personal experiences, and spirituality. He is currently pursuing a degree in education in Fort Wayne, Indiana.