Last Train Out Of Montmorenci Falls By W.K Kortas

Last Train Out Of Montmorenci Falls

It left the depot relatively unencumbered;
Passenger service having been discontinued the winter before,
So the engine and the few sad cars pulled out
Containing no more than a few sacks of mail and an antique air compressor
Headed down to Dubois for either repair or euthanasia.
In truth, you couldn’t blame the PRR folks;
The branch line hadn’t been profitable for decades, if ever at all,
The business of business being business and all that.
That said, the perfect reasonableness of events which transpired
Did not make them any more palatable.
Mind you, it was not just mere nostalgia
Which the engine’s farewell trip served up for those concerned:
Oh, there was a full complement of that,
For there was no telling how many folks
Had waited, ostensibly patiently, at trackside
For a new suit or bridal gown from Kaufman’s or Horne’s
Shipped all the way from Pittsburgh,
Or had waited, in tears one way or the other,
For a loved one coming home from one of the wars,
Stepping onto the platform all smiles, medals all but on fire in the sunlight,
Or carried off, flag-draped and cherry-lidded,
(The band playing in the tempo the particular case called for)
And the oldest of the old-timers still talked about the fateful day
When Tiger Joe Margiotti, Elk County born and bred,
Stood on the platform, the entire town there,
Cheering as one as they would never cheer again,
Waving farewell as he headed to Pittsburgh
To hear from Boss Lawrence the words we all knew would be said:
That he was too Italian, too Catholic, too rural
To receive benediction for the pursuit of statewide office,
And it wasn’t that you still couldn’t flag down the Trailways bus
Which ambled into town twice a day except Sundays,
Stopping at the jerry-built plywood shelter in front of the defunct Rexall
(Ostensibly a temporary measure, but there three years now.)
No, it was something more than that,
Intangible and yet portentous and awful,
For we had always suspected (and, deep down,
Known it to be as factual and true as our own names)
That though we had thrown rice and confetti at our successes
And wept or swore under our breaths at our failures
No differently than folks in Erie or Johnstown or Pittsburgh
Or, if we allowed ourselves the odd flight of fancy,
New York, London, or Beijing,
Our shortfall of tall buildings and traffic lights
Underscored the notion that our laughter, our cries,
Our dids and didn’ts were lesser things, of no real importance,
And the train’s final departure, its chugging labored and funereal,
Was the final sentence in an obituary written over an extended period of time
(The death itself a lingering, discomfiting affair,
Drawn out and piecemeal, like our fathers and uncles
Losing a finger here, a pinkie there
In the roller or pulp dryer back before the mills closed down),
Leaving us nothing but a pair of rails
Narrowing together like some middle schooler’s perspective drawing
Into a point in some faraway and unseen nothingness.

By W.K Kortas

Biography:

W.k. kortas is an itinerant civil servant living in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.  He lives and works by the axiom “Mediocre means better than some.”

Compass By Ramna Safeer

Compass

North:

Mama stepped off the plane that first time
with nothing but a shawl and sequined slippers
and her ankle fell into a foot of snow.
She says the cold changes things.
Wheels stop going and sky turns icy
and shoulders turn away for good.

South:

Love like birds flying to warmer places,
like little Pakistani boy, with
rubber sandals and a spool of kite string
clutched in his hands, running, running.
Love like little Pakistani boy growing up
to have a daughter, naming her after
everywhere he has never been, after
oceans that divide.

East:

Back home, the rickshaw men drove
down streets like no brakes, just onward.
Girls would jump onto the bumpers
and know this was flying and
borders were just lines drawn in the sandbox.
Ask the men running the dessert stalls
which way the wind was blowing
and they would throw fistfulls of sugar in the air
and watch it be taken by the breeze and they’d say,
in the direction of sweeter things.

West:

Winter, and I am warming my knuckles
against my dorm room narrator and the cold
has chafed my lips down to no feeling.
Mama calls and says three Muslims have been shot
and be safe, Ramna, say nothing, keep quiet,
be kind even at bitterness.

I am turning the radiator up all the way
and knowing that somewhere, the rickshaws are
on roads burning with heat and somewhere,
the equator runs through my Grandma’s home
like a vacant ring of snakeskin.
Here, the cold is changing things.
Parking lots are battlegrounds and gunshots echo
and kids follow the wind too far and
home forgets ever to see them again.

By Ramna Safeer

Biography:

Ramna Safeer is a pre-Law English Lit student. She is a writer, blogger, researcher, activist and perpetual coffee-spiller. Her poetry has been previously published in The ASUS Undergraduate Review, Atwood Mag and Words-on-Pages Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, New Canadian Media and The Queen’s Journal, where she works as the Editorials Editor. She is the founder and blogger at CherishChai.com, an online space that maps her journey to recapture her Pakistani, Muslim heritage. 

Genesis By Emily Palermo

Genesis

In the beginning,
we held the universe
in our mouths and
stardust dripped bloody
from our lips.

We were celestial and
we were hungry and
we were magic.

In the beginning,
we loved like monsters,
splitting our bones wide open,
setting our broken bodies on fire,
licking poison from our wrists.

We were hollow and
we were titans and
we were terrible.

In the beginning,
we reveled in our unholiness,
in the freedom of our sins.
We never asked for forgiveness and
the world burned and
burned and
burned.

We were wild and
we were wide-eyed and
we were forgotten.

We will rebuild the kingdom out of teeth.

By Emily Palermo

Biography:

Emily Palermo is a nineteen-year old aspiring writer from Louisiana, where she is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature. Her greatest influences include Richard Siken and Margaret Atwood. In her free time, she likes to frequent coffee shops and bookstores, talk about her dog, and wax poetic about Vincent van Gogh. More of her work can be found at http://starredsoul.tumblr.com/

The Sky Misses You Too By Valentina Thompson

The Sky Misses You Too

I’ll move to Oregon,
walk downtown, I won’t
avoid the puddles.

I want to live in a place
where the sky misses you
too.  I want to linger in
this damp body, shake with
all the ways we can’t touch,

they’ll say pneumonia.  I’ll
say your name.  They’ll list
the symptoms, I’ll say, she is
gone.  Treat my frame like
a diagnosis.  Fold my medical
bills like a love letter and

mail them without the postage.
I will find sleep that night
knowing something about you

will have to
come back to me.

By Valentina Thompson

Biography:

Valentina is a 20-year-old queer writer out of Long Beach, CA with a habit of writing to people who don’t love her back and always smiling at strangers. She is currently majoring in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, and if lost, can often be found in any small coffee shop on a rainy day. http://theseoverusedwords.tumblr.com/

100 Cups of Coffee Later By Kimberly Siehl

100 Cups of Coffee Later

It will be September and your skin will be sun-kissed
and slightly worn from his rough hands
and wandering tongue
and you will feel as if you could
sprout wings from your vertebrae.
A few months will pass and you will find yourself tangled up
In his dark blue sheets in a room that smells like sex
and glade plug-ins
and you will wonder why nothing has smelled this good before.
Some days you will hear him laugh
and see him smile at old couples
and pet dogs that pass him by on the street.
A few months will go by
and he will stop gripping your hand so tightly
and will start to forget how you take your coffee.
Cream and sugar is fine.
You settle for tea.
A few weeks will go by and you will ache
and the veins in your arms will be the only
things that remind you that color still exists.
A few more weeks will go by and you will
take yourself on a long walk.
And just when you think you’re okay,
you will see him drive by in his beat up ford
listening to a song on the radio that probably reminds him
of a girl with brighter eyes
and steadier hands.
And just when you think you don’t need him anymore
you will leave him a 60 second voicemail of you crying
and you will try to hang up before he can start to smell the vodka
through the receiver.
It is over now and you can’t fall asleep at night
because you can’t close your eyes without thinking
about his favorite movies
or the way he licks his lips when he looks at you.
But you will meet someone else someday
who will start a fire in your belly
and will create a new light under your skin.
And when he asks you how you take your coffee,
smile at him with those beautiful teeth
and tell him you drink it black.

By Kimberly Siehl

Biography:

My name is Kimberly Siehl and I’m a 20 year old student at The College of New Jersey studying clinical psychology and spanish. I love writing, singing, dogs, and good food.

The Harvested Man By W.K Kortas

The Harvested Man

He nurses his coffee, by himself most days,
But occasionally with the one or two others
Who constitute the bulk of the clientele of the diner
(Low-slung building faceless, nameless
Although those who remember a day
When the village was at least borderline prosperous
And home to more than a few hundred wan souls
Still refer to it as “Kitty’s Place”,
Though its namesake has been dead and gone some five decades),
One of the few going concerns which implausibly remain,
Seemingly through nothing more than sheer inertia,
In the drab little downtown along Canton Street.

He languishes over his cup for as long as the mood hits him,
There being no discernible reason to hurry
(Indeed, the diner itself, once open before sunrise
Now dark and silent until a leisurely seven-thirty or so),
His place not really a working farm these days,
Just a smattering of beef cattle
(Milking and stripping out more than he can manage now)
And what acreage of corn he can get in the ground.
Eventually, he totters out of the front door,
One sleeve of his shirt rolled and pinned up
(Its former occupying member removed
After the incident with the ancient and malevolent corn binder),
Moving toward his truck with an all-but-one-legged gait,
His left-leg jigsaw-puzzled by an overturned Farmall
Some years back (most days he reckoned he’d tipped the tractor
By failing to shift his balance to accommodate driving one-armed,
Though if he was in a black enough mood he’d put it down
To an old Iroquois curse placed on the entire St. Lawrence valley.)

One could say, if he was a poet or some other damn philosophical fool,
That these partial sacrifices served to ward off some even more awful finality.
He would have none of that, of course–in his own cosmology
The gods and demons most likely have bigger fish to fry,
And, as to the prospect of some inexorable wreck and ruin,
He is of the opinion that what he has given up to this point
Is both ample and sufficient.

By W.K Kortas

Biography:

W.k. kortas is an itinerant civil servant living in Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains.  He lives and works by the axiom “Mediocre means better than some.”

Saffron By Ramna Safeer

Saffron

She tied her shawl, saffron red,
tasseled at the ends, to the
bumper of a rickshaw and
watched it go, like blood through
wind’s veins.

Pakistan sky bending over,
as if in prayer, as if to cup its hands
and whisper into them, “Love my
people, kiss my children.”

Mama smells like alleyway shisha smoke
and equator summer and paprika.
I am three. Learning to walk.
Learning the cobblestone braille
of these streets. Skinning my knees,
learning again.

Peshawar is province frozen
in goodbye. I remember it as the place
I wanted to go home to, remap the
valleys of. Walk along the path
Mama used to take to school.

A hundred and forty kids.
Bent beneath desks. Air tastes
like metal, like iron. Saffron runs
through cracks in the floor.

Pakistan sky clenches its teeth.
Pakistan sky bites its tongue.
The rickshaws seem to cut their
engines all at once.

Pakistan sky lead heavy, like whistle
lost between lips, like shawl loosening
from bumper, trampled and beaten,
like a nation shedding its shards
after a day of target practice.

By Ramna Safeer

Biography:

Ramna Safeer is a pre-Law English Lit student. She is a writer, blogger, researcher, activist and perpetual coffee-spiller. Her poetry has been previously published in The ASUS Undergraduate Review, Atwood Mag and Words-on-Pages Magazine. Her essays and articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, New Canadian Media and The Queen’s Journal, where she works as the Editorials Editor. She is the founder and blogger at CherishChai.com, an online space that maps her journey to recapture her Pakistani, Muslim heritage.

PTSD By Jordan Hamilton

PTSD

For Keith and Ben

It’s a scene
People in my line of work
Are all too familiar with
Two in the morning
Cigarette in hand
Blood
On his knuckles
He’s been swinging at shadows again
Whiskey on his breath
I am talking him down again
I’m trying to remind him
That Afghanistan is just an outline on a map now
That he is in Southern California
And no longer in the desert that killed half of his adopted brothers
I try to swallow my guilt
Even though I have heard all of the stories
And he and I have the exact same basic training
I have no idea what he’s been through
I try to keep it humorous
I remind him that
Yes
California has a gang problem
But the bloods and the crips are not known for making homemade explosives
Not known
For treating children like street corners
And rigging them with IEDs
That’s probably not funny to any of you
But that’s okay
Because
Even though he laughs
We both know
It’s empty
Gallows humor
Because there’s nothing funny about a grown man
Scared to death of the monsters under his bed
He takes a drag from his cigarette
Takes a pull from his bottle
Normally I would stop him
But I can tell that tonight
It might be the only thing holding him together
He says
Do you remember the things they taught us
Like how Opha Mae Johnson
Was the first female to join the Marine Corps in 1912
Or how In 1918 we gave birth to the concept of Marine Corps aviation
The proper way to place a tourniquet is as far from the heart
And as close to the missing limb
As possible
If one of your brothers
Takes a round to the chest
The proper way to treat it
Is to take a layer of gauze
Large enough to cover the wound
Tape down three sides and monitor your patient for shock and tension pneumothorax
If they present
With tension pneumothorax
You take the end of a hypodermic needle
Puncture between the second and third rib
Allowing air to escape from the pleural cavity
And your casualties lungs to expand
When one of your brothers
Is thinking about killing himself
He will act irrationally
He will make jokes about his own demise
His performance at work will be affected
And with shaking hands
He will begin to give away
Things that you once thought meant something to him
What they never taught us
Were the things that mattered
They never taught us
How to apply a tourniquet
To the bleeding stump of your own sanity
Or what do
When
No matter how many sharp objects I have punctured my chest with
My lungs
Just don’t seem capable of expanding anymore
Or what to do
When the shaking hands
Are now my own
The only thing
That puts me to bed anymore is a bottle of whiskey and a fist fight
And that’s because
The last time I slept soundly
It was in a hole I dug with my bare hands
7000 miles from home
The last time
My bed felt comfortable
It was in the middle of a war zone
He takes a drag from his now spent cigarette
Takes a pull from his empty bottle of whiskey
He reaches for his wallet
Shows me a picture of his pregnant wife
He says
Do you know why I’m glad I’m having a baby
I feel like If I can bring a child
Into this world
Then maybe
I can give back a little bit of the innocence that was stolen from me
I was 19 and naive
When they handed me a rifle
And sent me off to war
And I don’t think I’m ever going to get that back
You see
Before I left I knew
No matter what they held I could always outrun my fears
No matter what my night mares contained
I would always wake up
But somewhere
Between the first time
My truck hit an IED
And the night
We had to send Kyle home in a body bag
Because someone fell asleep on post
My nightmares
They grew legs
And started chasing after me
And now
My lungs
Are on the verge of collapse
From running dead sprint
Through a marathon race
I just don’t seem capable of finding the finish line to
I don’t know If I’m ever gonna wake up
And the irony of that
Is I haven’t slept in three days
The images
Just keep playing themselves across my vision
As if the back of my skull
Were a movie projector
I can smell
The blood
And I can taste the death
I keep hearing the sound a throat makes
When all of it’s vocal cords have been cut
I keep seeing the way Jonesy’s face looked
Moments before a bullet
Removed the top half of his skull
And drained
Every dream
He’d ever had
Out onto the dirt street of some shit hole city we couldn’t even tell you the name of
We couldn’t even tell you why we were there
And I know
The burden of doing exactly as we are told
Is one
Us warriors
Are taught to carry at a young age
But my shoulders
Are tired
I keep trying to remind myself that I am a warrior
That I am trained to kill
And willing to die for the things that I believe in
And If I just keep doing exactly as I have been taught
Then
Maybe
Someday
This will all go away
But
The problem is
That in between my nightmares
My favorites dreams
Are the ones where my friends
Are still alive

By Jordan Hamilton

Jordan Hamilton is a 23 year old poet from Aransas Pass, Texas. He was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2014, where he learned to stare open eyed into clouds of CS gas while reciting Buddy Wakefield’s “Human the Death Dance.” He thinks punk rock can save the world and find his dreams in the stories of strangers. He wants you to know that your survival is the highest form of courage. His work can be found at workingonhumble.com or in audio format at jordanhamilton.bandcamp.com

Slow Violence By G.H. Monroe

Slow Violence

The media loves violence.
As one editor once said of headlines,
“if it bleeds, it leads.”

We, the lemmings, are outraged
on cue, unified on cue. Lights,
camera, action. Our blood sells.
It sells iPhones, music, insurance
Our blood brings frenzies of
twenty four hour, on site coverage.

But it must be the right sort of violence.
It must come in a sudden splash.
It must come in a vivid shade of crimson.

There is no money in slow violence,
the slow violence of indifference,

A child torn to physical shreds is news.
But not a child torn to pieces spiritually
by the slow, gray violence of poverty,
or torn to intellectual shreds by the
slow violence of substandard schools.

Thousands homeless and hungry?
Humans too poor for medical care?
Reel in the news trucks, go back to
your regularly scheduled lives.
There’s nothing more to see here.

By G.H. Monroe

Biography:

Born on the eve of Christmas, 1960, I spent the larger part of my adult life working in the information technology field but never strayed far from my true passion, which is writing. My debut book, “That’s My Story!” (Amazon) materialized not from a quest to write a book, but from a love for writing short stories. After years of writing short stories simply for the love of writing, I ended up with a collection of short stories that some said were suitable for compilation, and so that is what I did. I live in Western New York near the Pennsylvania border where I am working on my first full-length novel. Though I have always written poetry, I am only now beginning to investigate submitting some of my poems for publishing consideration.

American Nightmare By Pj Carmichael

American Nightmare

Wasting money by passing time.

Seconds to minutes,
cents to dollars,
billions through the years.

(I work to live,
but I do not live to work.)

One morning I awoke from a
22 year slumber, only to find
that the bills weren’t paid,
and the debt collectors are
always armed
to to the teeth.

Phone calls: fiscal stressors,
reminders of debt, indication
of past transactions
long forgotten.

(They always want more.)

I wake to an 8-hour-day
that roughly translates
to food, shelter, boredom,
and alienation.

“Growing up” is a financial statement.

By Pj Carmichael

Biography:

PJ Carmichael is a writer, artist, visionary, and adolescent from Wakefield, Massachusetts. His work focuses on the synthesis of sociology, psychology, philosophy, and empiricism. Through his work, he aims to bridge the gap between the concrete and the abstract. He enjoys hiking, biking, exploring, taking photographs, and exploring the metaphysical.