Wasp Nest

images

the man stood in the
center of the room
it was rearranged
now

transformed by hours
and illness
the walls and carpet
darker than before

the hum of deranged
chemistry plotted
beneath
fresh paint and
vacuumed floors

when he walked the halls
doors slammed
and latched
with an aggressive
disinterest

he felt their eyes
brown and blue
and vigorous
heavy with wet
menace

he twisted brass knobs
and banged on fake wood
peeked under frames

it’s me, he thought
remember
me?

those
endless conversations
and sweet laughter
dissections
of music and books
life retold

and
that time
I stumbled
into
your sun

the man crawled outside
smoked a cigarette
got up and paced
and paced
feet and concrete
and nothingness
the sky swallowed his
mind

her silhouette taunts
on glass doors
curves that sing
and
radiance that heals
and
that stylish bob

oh yes

a reflection
of
lost blood
and hysteria

do not fall
do not reveal
do not trust

she filled
his heart with silence
a cocktail
of
farewell

drink
until you see fire
old friend

drink
until your veins
swell with me
old friend

drink me today and
tomorrow and
forever
old friend

the man smiled at
temptation, raised
her voiceless
treason
to
his mouth

and drank and drank
until he saw
at last
the black dawn
of
never again

I “borrowed” the title from this song, a tune that has 2 different roles in this poem. Plus, I feel it’s important to give credit to the artist I borrowed from.

Residue & Glass Noise

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I’m quite humbled to have 2 prose poems, Residue & Glass Noise, included in the latest issue of the always wonderful Unbroken Journal. The brainchild of R.L. Black, this journal continues to publish some fantastic prose. And the photos paired with my poems are just perfect. A bit of sunshine on an otherwise bleak day. I’m more than grateful.

You can read my poems here (pages 46-47)

Everything Is A Bruise

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I’m overjoyed to have my story Everything Is A Bruise included in issue 4 of Yellow Chair Review. The founder of this gem of a literary journal is Sarah Frances Moran, a talented writer whose poetry has appeared in numerous publications. The magazine is currently taking submissions for a special horror issue coming out in October, if that genre is your bag. Maybe a story about a quirky, sociopathic gallant who never leaves the couch? His skin turns into fabric? Wait, that might be more autobiographical than horror. Or maybe both.

You can read my story here (page 7)

Sixty Seconds V with: Chris Milam

Originally posted on Flash! Friday:

Chris Milam, FlashDog Chris Milam, FlashDog

Chris Milam is our latest champ and Flash! Friday’s second FIVE-time winner. Read his bio and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s pagehere. His fifth winning story, “Penelope Callaghan,” was also featured in a Flash Points closeup: read that here. And now: join me in peeking inside the mind of a five-time winner. I promise to do my best to get us back out at the end. 

♦♦♦

Blue-Collared Ruin

Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here, in a state of desperation. Some, as in family. They said I was a gambler, and gamblers love chaos. Maybe they were right.

Sitting in the parking lot with my pal Dave Copeland, I could still hear the thumping of the press. The way its mechanical jaw opened and closed, like a giant hydraulic shark. It feasted on complacency. I often thought…

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Flash Points: Chris Milam

Originally posted on Flash! Friday:

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Welcome to Flash Points. Every so often (or every not-so-often, it turns out) we grab a story, live and wriggling, out of the latest batch of gorgeous flash and fillet it. Which seems particularly appropriate for today’s chosen story — that’s also this week’s winner — by superwriter Chris Milam. Loathe as I am to admit it, “Penelope” proves that some writers can pull off a great story despite a (rather embarrassing, in point of fact) dragon omission. 

Prompt: The Great Gatsby

Word limit:   100 – 150 words

Today’s chosen flash piece:  Penelope Callaghanby Chris Milam

The man was prowling the docks for a juice joint when he saw her. Hair as red as a freshly gutted tuna. A face that could’ve launched the ship she arrived on, the Mauretania.

“Jimmy Banks. You’re a choice bit of calico. You gotta name?”

“Penelope.”

“A pleasure. You need a gig?…

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Penelope Callaghan

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The man was prowling the docks for a juice joint when he saw her. Hair as red as a freshly gutted tuna. A face that could’ve launched the ship she arrived on, the Mauretania.

“Jimmy Banks. You’re a choice bit of calico.You gotta name?”

“Penelope.”

“A pleasure. You need a gig? I can get you work making dresses. Yes?”

“No. I didn’t come here to be a seamstress.”

“I dabble in muck sometimes. You game?”

“Why not. Show me your dark America.”

He schooled her. “Take advantage of your looks. Get close. Flirt with your mouth. Pop some buttons on your blouse. When he’s hooked, ram steel into his heart. Don’t hesitate. Know your onions. Make some cash.”

Years and dozens of punctured ventricles later, Penelope would think of Jimmy Banks. The rum-fisted uppercuts. The savage bouquet of cheap cologne. The way his chest opened up, like a filleted sturgeon.

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My second entry for the latest installment of Flash! Friday. The story elements I chose were the conflict of Man vs Man and the setting of 1920s New York. Your story had to be between 100-150 words.

I’m beyond stoked to be named the winner this week. I haven’t entered since my last win in June, so to receive my 5th overall win in this fabulous contest is truly cool as hell. I must thank the judges this week, Nancy Chenier and IfeOluwa Nihinlola, for the difficult task of picking winners this week. There were so many fantastic stories. They blew me away. Their thoughts on my story are below.

Judges comments: IN: “Penelope” does all the good flashfiction-y things. That usually goes very wrong or very right, but here it goes the right way. The framing (from freshly-gutted tuna to filleted sturgeons), the imagery, the well-tuned dialogue, and the end-twist, all deliver a complete story in 150 words. There’s only one description each for the characters (“A face that could’ve launched the ship she arrived on, the Mauretenia,” and “The savage bouquet of cheap cologne”), yet their sketch is clear: Jimmy is lecherous, confident in his knowledge of the world; Penelope is, on the surface, naive, but she turns out to be the darker of the duo. Unlike Nancy, I’m unaware of the allusions in this piece, but it’s so well written that even without knowing them, the story works. Having Nancy point them out below just increases my enjoyment.

NC: So much tasty in this piece. The language is as sharp as a filet knife. The fish-gut imagery that sandwiches this piece—a reference to the mob-controlled Fulton Fish Market, perhaps?—is perfect. Penelope is a brilliant character, first through Jimmy’s eyes, through the dialogue, to the last paragraph which shifts deftly to her POV (a shift that also manages to move us ahead in time as well, without a page break). The reference to the Mauretania signals a crucial element that Jimmy (who makes the allusion) misses: it was the fastest liner of its day. We know she’s new to the New World, but she’s savvy enough to take on “dark America”. The dialogue between them crackles: her bluntness vs. his slang-heavy banter, and what wonderful slang it is too. I can imagine Jimmy having a habit of hustling new arrivals, but she turns out to be his match, established in the dialogue, confirmed in the end. Not knowing the allusions doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of this piece at all (which makes them the best kind of allusions). The last paragraph packs so much into it without getting bogged down. One tiny scintillating phrase (“rum-fisted uppercuts”) drums up enough antipathy for Jimmy that his demise in the next line seems inevitable and satisfying.

Every Breath You Take

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Movement was his intoxicant. If he could pour her enhanced slither into a glass tumbler, he would find oblivion.

Jason observed from the corner. A slow dance, her body painted in satin, the kind you didn’t buy at a thrift store. Hips and eyes in suggestive unison, a subtle coquetry. Hands as elegant as gold foil clawed the affluent back of a silver-haired man. The way her face disrobed when the suave cadaver tossed a compliment.

Back when he was transfixed and she was bored, it was her honesty that he admired. Jennifer had said from the beginning that she would never stay. Barbecues and bowling leagues induced dread. Nuclear families with a dog named Sparky were dupes with white picket delusions. Contentment breeds romantic fatigue.

A flute of champagne floated to her lips. Jason drank her arms, her skin, her escape. He swallowed pale gasoline, her incendiary truth.

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My first entry in the latest installment of Flash! Friday. The story elements I chose were the conflict of Man vs Society and the theme of Obsession. Your tale had to be between 100-150 words. My story didn’t make the podium this week, but I received some wonderful feedback. I actually thought this story was the stronger of my two entries, but as you’ll see with my next post, the other one fared a bit better.

For what it’s worth, I was listening to this classic during the revision stage. Hidden meaning? Possibly