how to break up when you don’t even realize that’s what you’re doing

 

By Conney D. Williams

 

Deadboltthis morning I am on the toilet
releasing yesterday’s stench
she has decided to return home
doesn’t take her usual route
she doesn’t see the need
to utter goodbyes
tells me I can deadbolt the door
she left her words, unspoken
scattered across the coffee table
spilled on the tapestry rug
leaving stains that vibrato
unbleachable
from the fabric we’ve woven
the same words she swallowed
around 11:30 pm last night
when we were fucking
we fucked away the silence
fucked all the communication
cemented inside our mouths
tongues reeled backwards
to manhole the tepid breath
still rigid inside our larynx
no wonder my stomach boils
tenderness & touch
have become fossil
in my digestive tract and memory
I am unable to wipe quickly enough
before her disappointment
cascades across the laminate floor
bolts through the door and
chokes the oxygen between us
I am naked except
for the plaid pajamas
tangled around my ankles
I peer through a cracked door
Only her license plate
and exhaust smoke are in view
she isn’t honking
or waving that lover’s goodbye
no morning breath kiss
she can’t possibly feel the empty
stranded inside my gaze
can’t possibly taste the sour reflux
like bile upon my tongue
she can’t, cos’ if she did
she would stay or at least wait
I recoil to the coffee table’s edge
collapse next to her stale glass of wine
from the night before
tannins still wafting in my nostrils
her lipstick etched into the glass
like remembrances
I’m left to sort & file by category
in my vault of past relationships
I want to imagine her return
knocking loudly and cussing
when I allow her to re-enter
but she doesn’t, return
even though “I’m sorry baby”
is hushed inside my mouth
even though
I don’t believe that I was wrong
there is no text
or clandestine Facebook post
that only she and I recognize
we are both out of context
speaking in ways intended
to sever love’s connective tissue
she drives away from the intersection
disposes us along her route
like Aaron Hernandez’s missing gun
still warm from murder
never to be recovered
I find my way back to the toilet
and continue shitting
like it’s all I know how to do

…………………………………………

About Conney D. Williams

ConneyConney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality.

Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His newest collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012.

Conney has performed his poetry on television, radio, galleries, universities, grade schools, coffeehouses, and stages around Southern California and across the country, including the Black Arts Festival. He is a talented public speaker with more than thirty years of experience.

Read more about Conney at conneywilliams.com.

Deadbolt photo credit: Quillons via a Creative Commons license

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In Praise of Janet Reno and Other Bean Poles

By Penny Perry

 

Janet Renoshe stands a little stooped in a drab black dress
loosely covering her comfortable paunch
hair cut short, small eyes peer through glasses
she could be the lady who plays piano
at Sunday school or the reference librarian
but she is Janet Reno, the attorney general
she and the president have just fired
the head of the FBI

in the classrooms of the 50s
she would have been told: “Don’t worry dear.
Boys will shoot up to you. Meanwhile, fluff
up your hair. Try to smile more.”

Michelle, Leslie, and Nina Lou
were bean poles at Lincoln Junior High
they found new ways to slouch
one should slid, breasts tucked into abdomens
knees buckled
anything to drop seven inches to cheerleader height

at our tenth year high school reunion
Michelle, at six one, wore hot pants and a halter
she had “filled out in all the right places
the boys who used to call her bean pole
stared at her and she stared back
there was something vengeful in her smile
and that slow swivel of her hips
as she danced with each of them

when asked if she were a lesbian
Janet said she was as romantic about handsome men
as many other middle aged spinsters might be
being single was not the most important
fact of her life

maybe she’s made life easier for the Michelles
Leslies and Nina Lous.
maybe they’ll be less afraid to tower
over their dancing partners
or raise their hands to answer every question

………………………………………

About Penny Perry

PennyPerryKateHardingMugPenny Perry is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Lilith, Redbook, Earth’s Daughter, the Paterson Literary Review and the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Her first collection of poems, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage (Garden Oak Press, 2012) earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Painting of Attorney General Janet Reno by Dorothy Swain Lewis via the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

A Flower for the Graves

By Eugene Patterson

Originally published in The Atlanta Constitution on September 16, 1963

 

A Negro mother wept in the street Sunday morning in front of a Baptist Church in Birmingham. In her hand she held a shoe, one shoe, from the foot of her dead child. We hold that shoe with her.

Every one of us in the white South holds that small shoe in his hand.

It is too late to blame the sick criminals who handled the dynamite. The FBI and the police can deal with that kind. The charge against them is simple. They killed four children.

Only we can trace the truth, Southerner — you and I. We broke those children’s bodies.

We watched the stage set without staying it. We listened to the prologue unbestirred. We saw the curtain opening with disinterest. We have heard the play.

We — who go on electing politicians who heat the kettles of hate.

We — who raise no hand to silence the mean and little men who have their nigger jokes.

We — who stand aside in imagined rectitude and let the mad dogs that run in every society slide their leashes from our hand, and spring.

We — the heirs of a proud South, who protest its worth and demand it recognition — we are the ones who have ducked the difficult, skirted the uncomfortable, caviled at the challenge, resented the necessary, rationalized the unacceptable, and created the day surely when these children would die.

This is no time to load our anguish onto the murderous scapegoat who set the cap in dynamite of our own manufacture.

He didn’t know any better.

Somewhere in the dim and fevered recess of an evil mind he feels right now that he has been a hero. He is only guilty of murder. He thinks he has pleased us.

We of the white South who know better are the ones who must take a harsher judgment.

We, who know better, created a climate for child-killing by those who don’t.

We hold that shoe in our hand, Southerner. Let us see it straight, and look at the blood on it. Let us compare it with the unworthy speeches of Southern public men who have traduced the Negro; match it with the spectacle of shrilling children whose parents and teachers turned them free to spit epithets at small huddles of Negro school children for a week before this Sunday in Birmingham; hold up the shoe and look beyond it to the state house in Montgomery where the official attitudes of Alabama have been spoken in heat and anger.

Let us not lay the blame on some brutal fool who didn’t know any better.

We know better. We created the day. We bear the judgment. May God have mercy on the poor South that has so been led. May what has happened hasten the day when the good South, which does live and has great being, will rise to this challenge of racial understanding and common humanity, and in the full power of its unasserted courage, assert itself.

The Sunday school play at Birmingham is ended. With a weeping Negro mother, we stand in the bitter smoke and hold a shoe. If our South is ever to be what we wish it to be, we will plant a flower of nobler resolve for the South now upon these four small graves that we dug.

 

 

The Saga of Clete and Juanita’s Pool, Part 2

A Short Story by
Dan McClenaghan

Read Part 1, “The Possibilities of Zero G,” here.

 

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 1.28.31 PM

A U.S. government satellite flies over Clete and Juanita Johnson’s house. Regularly. It’s spying.

A half a decade earlier, a meteorite plowed into the Johnson’s backyard, and, though the space rock proved itself legitimate—a mystery stone from somewhere deep in the cosmos—the specter of terrorism was still on Uncle Sam’s mind, fed by the facts that the laws of gravity had changed in the airspace over the resulting crater and that the dense rocks sifted from the hole by the Astronomy Department of the University of California San Diego and then confiscated by the Department of Homeland Security, would—on a schedule as yet undetermined—rise up from the steel tables and float around the government’s secret research lab. After the hoopla of the meteorite strike had died down—society has a very short collective attention span—Clete had a swimming pool put in, at a discount since the hole had been dug for him—by God, he would say with a wink and a grin.

The pictures from the spy satellite have been revelatory: Ellis Leahy, the Johnson’s next door neighbor, stepping onto the pool’s surface and walking across the water, from one side to the other, to get his beer from the ice chest beside Clete’s barbecue; the Johnson’s Chihuahua, Ginger, leaping off the diving board and soaring over the turquoise water like a sparrow; Ruth, Ellis’s wife, along with her friend Juanita, rising up from the pool cloaked in a shimmering, wobbling globe of chlorinated water that breaks into a million small globules and drops softly back to the surface, along with the ladies; and the pool itself, all thousands of gallon of water pulling up like a gob of taffy, then exploding into a universe of debris that forms itself out of its entropy into stars and galaxies and solar systems filled with planets—some of them harboring life—before collapsing in on itself and dropping back home into the cement-lined crater in the Johnson’s backyard.

All of this had been observed and recorded, but the thing that lit a fire under the Homeland Security guys and got them out from behind their computers and into “the field” with their cameras, was the pool party hosted by Megan Leahy and Evangeline “Vangie’ Johnson, the plans for which were discovered via intercepted text messages.

Megan and Vangie, daughters of Ruth and Ellis and Clete and Juanita, respectively, both of them pushing hard at thirty years of age, shared a childhood as next door neighbors. Now they share an apartment on the east side of Loma Alta, in what has come to be known as Posole Town. They also share a profession: cocktail waitressing at competing Indian casinos in the North San Diego backcountry.

When Vangie found out her parents, Clete and Juanita, were headed to Las Vegas, via a text message from her mother, she texted Megan in a casino-to-casino message, in all capital letters: MOM AND DAD VEGAS BOUND. POOL PARTY THIS WEEKEND, SWIM SUITS OPTIONAL!!!

So the Feds, who’d been listening, sent a SWAT Team to the party, and from their surveillance vantage points—high in a eucalyptus tree in the ravine behind Clete and Juanita’s house and another from the canopy of a sycamore just up the hill—they observed bacchanalian goings on: hard drinking, nudity in the pool, various pairings disappearing to the house for suspected couplings, and finally a huge and gelatinous ball of the cool water pulling up out of its source with a dozen partiers in its embrace, their bodies bare, slightly magnified and distorted, wavering, enjoying a salubrious respite from the maladies of gravity.

The Fed guys decided against a manned assault. Instead, they sent a drone in with a bomb. It pierced the glob of water and exited the far side on an altered trajectory that took it over the fence into the airspace over Ruth and Ellis Leahy’s yard, its soaked explosive nullified. The water-logged motors sputtered and coughed and died before the craft crashed into the back of the Leahy’s house with no explosion, just minor damage to the stucco from the impact. Simultaneously, the globe of water broke into a dozen separate entities, each containing a single human. The Feds got this on film, illuminated by their powerful search lights, making each levitating person appear to be wrapped in a bio-luminescent cocoon that dropped softly back into the swimming pool to merge once again into a collective.

Ruth Leahy, on the other side of the fence, came out to investigate the crash against her wall. She’d heard it over the TV that she’d turned up to drown out the sound of the party, a soiree that she knew was being hosted by her Megan and Clete and Juanita’s Vangie—she’d seen their cars in the driveway next door. She thought somebody at the party had thrown a full beer can over the fence, as people will, but she discovered the drone, one that didn’t look like it was set up to deliver her DeNio’s pizza or Ellis’ Walmart Viagra. It had ominous wires and a black box that might as well have had the word “bomb” written on it. She called 911. The local police sent in the bomb squad.

Next door, the party dissipated, a wet blanket thrown on its fervor by the Fed’s search lights, their invasive drone, and the arrival of the police.

The water in Clete and Juanita’s pool glimmered silently, at rest for the time being.

And the film that the Fed guys took was leaked. It showed up on YouTube, got millions of hits, and was almost immediately dismissed as a hoax by all but a few wild-eyed and paranoid crackpots.

……………………………………………..
About Dan McClenaghan

DanMcClenaghanMugI write stuff.

I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.

I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.

Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!

Photo credit: Satellite image via Google Maps.

 

Summer’s Drought in My Ankle

By Karla Cordero

 

In my ankle
small wind
stirs in the grass

In my ankle
grass fiddles
their thumbs

In my ankle
sailor’s ships
are locked in ice—

my country’s story
is a locked joint—
a car-smoked-bone

drought

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

About Karla Cordero
KarlaCordero1

Born in the hot little border town of Calexico, California, I started my new life in San Diego where the weather spoils the living. I’m currently an MFA candidate at San Diego State University, studying creative writing under Sandra Alcosser and Illya Kaminsky. Aside from the graduate life, I’m an associate editor for Poetry International and my work has appeared in the California Journal of Women Writers.

In 2013, I helped the San Diego poetry slam team place fourth in the country at the National Poetry Slam in Boston. I believe that activism exists in the ability to pick up a pen and paper, transforming one’s thoughts into a tangible action for change.

 

Photo credit: K-B Gressitt

 

LEXICON OF AN MFA GRAD

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

 

About to age out of a low-residency MFA creative writing program—you know, one of those online deals where you and the professors spend all day in your bathrobes, tied to your computers, drinking dusty Jack Daniels—I’ve one last obligation: the dreaded graduate lecture.

Now, before Father dropped dead by the fishpond, his sesquipedalian tendency rubbed off on my siblings and me, and my professors have occasionally called me on my resultant use of big, arcane words. But hey, it’s a grad program. Look them up! Besides, my lecture is Gender Studies-based, and it’s a lot easier to use the words that best describe such things.

On the other hand, I’m a little worried my profs are right. So, I’ve compromised by creating a party favor for lecture-goers, a handy lexicon with nice illustrative examples. I had some fun with it, too, so I figured I’d share, although maybe that’s just my self-absorbed nature. Anyway, here it is. I hope it’s useful.

Hegemony: a society’s dominant culture and its ideology.

In the USA, that’s white, patriarchal, Christian, heterosexual ideology. For example, take a look at the demographics of the U.S. Congress: 81 percent male, 82 percent white, 92 percent Christian and 97 percent heterosexual, although members of Congress have tended to postpone coming out until after they leave office. Happily, this is changing.

Hegemonic lens: the point of view of the dominant ideology.

2014PulitzerPrizeCmteThis point of view can blind the viewer to hegemonic representations (see below). In the realm of literature, Donna Tartt provides a nice example. The significant majority of people of color in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Goldfinch are undeveloped characters restricted to the serving class.

Author Joy Castro wrote in her review of the novel for Salon: “Almost all the characters of color are servants, and they play bit parts. … Her servant characters don’t quite say, ‘You is kind. You is smart. You is important,’ as in The Help, but they come close.”

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Board apparently failed to make note of this—perhaps a function of its being 74 percent white folks. Perhaps Ms. Tartt was similarly blinded, being of white Mississippi stock.

Hegemonic representation: a portrayal of someone or something that reflects hegemonic ideology.

Of course, white folks don’t expect to be pulled over for driving while white, have their purses searched in department stores or be killed by a police officer for peddling cigarettes, but when it happens to someone of color, white folks tend to assume that person is indeed a criminal because people of color are so often represented as such in popular media, news and propaganda (think Willie Horton, a classic). Folks of color tend to know it’s institutionalized racism perpetuated by hegemonic representations.

Enculturate: to imbue an individual with the traditional content of a culture, its ideology, practices and values.

Although a decided embarrassment, I admit to having been effectively enculturated by U.S. hegemony: When I hear the term “member of Congress,” I tend to think of a male, despite being a feminist and having a degree in Women’s Studies. Of course, if the member of Congress says something asinine about women, which so many of them do, I feel fairly confident the speaker is a male—or former Rep. Michele Bachmann—and there are those annoying demographics (see ‘Hegemony,’ above).

Socially constructed gender roles: prescribed roles and their relevant, ideal behaviors, defined by society and based on the binary of male or female.

A local example, the transgender student at Fallbrook High School who committed suicide a couple months ago did so, in part, because she felt overwhelmed by society’s failure to embrace her non-binary gender identity.

JDSocial location: the socio-cultural group to which an individual belongs and that lends the individual identity.

Hmm, I’m a Southern California low-residency MFA grad, which means I’m likely to be privileged, white, straight, creative, substance-abusing, cerebral, depressive and self-absorbed.

Close, but no cigar.

Love,
K-B

…………………………

About Kit-Bacon Gressitt

Spawned by a Southern Baptist creationist and a liberal social worker, I inherited the requisite sense of humor to survive family dinner-table debates and the imagination to avoid them.

As the Sunday political columnist at the San Diego North County Times, I won awards, a Pulitzer Prize submission, a fan club, and death threats from angry readers—but the sales department loved me. More recently, I wrote book reviews for the paper, which is no longer: The U-T ate it.

In the last few years, the San Diego Poetry Annual has published some of my late-night poetry, and my creative nonfiction has been published by Trivia: Voices of Feminism and Ms. Magazine blog among others.

Today, the pocket gophers and hummingbirds keep me company while I write—yippee!

Writers Read at Fallbrook Library Presents

Author Wendy C. Ortiz

Discussing

Hollywood Notebook
 & Excavation: A Memoir

 

Preceded by open mic for original poetry and prose

Date: Tuesday, June 9, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Location: Fallbrook Library, 124 S Mission, Fallbrook, 760-731-4650

WendyCOrtiz

Wendy with her new release, Hollywood Notebook


Wendy C. Ortiz is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books) and Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press). Wendy wrote the year-long, monthly column “On the Trail of Mary Jane,” about medical marijuana dispensary culture in Southern California, for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, and PANK, among other places.

excavation coverShe has twice been a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook, a rural writing retreat for women writers. She is co-founder, curator and host of the long-running Rhapsodomancy Reading Series. Wendy is a mother and a marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles.

She is also an adjunct faculty in creative writing and has also facilitated creative writing workshops with Los Angeles youth in juvenile detention facilities. While living in Olympia, Washington, she was a mudwrestler, library worker and editor and publisher of 4th Street, a handbound literary journal.

Wendy’s books will be available for sale and signing.

For more information about Writers Read, contact K-B Gressitt at kbgressitt@gmail.com or 760-522-1064.

Photo credit: Meiko Takechi Arquillos.

Finding My Way

By Conney D. Williams

AlienFemalethe women in los angeles
must be taking classes, en masse
training at a secret location
they are taking injections of botox
laced with a desensitizing agent
their makeup is a façade
used to infiltrate the new age man
they are upsetting
the balance of world power
recalibrating patriarchal structure
that has given peace of mind
to men for centuries
when did roles began to reverse
my intuition says it coincided
with the shift in global warming
the synchronicity of their vocabulary
belies any randomness of this sample
the cogency of my tautalogy
has an error factor of minus zero
when did women began saying,
“It’s not your fault, it’s mine,” and
“I’m not looking for a commitment right now,”
and, “Yeah, I promise I will call you”
these phrases and others like them
have been the domain and exit strategy
of men, since before I can remember
is there a resistance movement
are there any underground LA women
who are buying Beyonce’s latest cd
laced with the subliminal lyrics
“I will date and marry a guy
who is not traditionally handsome
and makes less money than I,
even though I am ridiculously rich,
incomparably  beautiful
with a body deliciously attractive”
but these women in los angeles
must be taking classes, en masse
training at a secret location
to reverse roles of relationship
tell me why are so many of us men
getting dumped this close to Christmas
there’s a feminine chill cruising
through the Los Angeles ether
malls are packed with sensitive men
who carry their own bags
doing daily guilt shopping
indiscriminately buying things they don’t need
they are eating in groups of five or more
at places like the Olive Garden
these  women are upsetting
the balance of world power
recalibrating patriarchal structure
they devour more than nurture
they have become impermeable
with ceramic hearts and latex skin
they need distance
in order to hear themselves
but today I am ready to admit
that I am hurt and disappointed
and even though I know
there is no real conspiracy
this silence inside my head
and soft ache at the edge of my arms
certainly makes it feel that there is
every date doesn’t end with a kiss
all relationships aren’t destined for marriage
and it sucks that the cold of winter
coincides with breakups
then she calls me out of the blue
and for no reason other than
she really does care about me
just to share a laugh
because that’s what former lovers do
I tell her I am writing again
and finally realize that the living room sofa
is no place to do remembering
we make promises to catch up soon
that will probably never materialize
because that’s what former lovers do
and it’s only been a month since it ended
and only two weeks since we talked
I am feeling more comfortable
with the fact she’s no longer in my life
and even though I know
there is no real conspiracy
I will continue to walk around as Mulder
believing there alien women
living and dating in Los Angeles

…………………………………………..

About Conney D. Williams

ConneyConney D. Williams is a Los Angeles based poet, actor and performance artist, originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked as a radio personality.

Conney’s first collection of poetry, Leaves of Spilled Spirit from an Untamed Poet, was published in 2002. His poetry has also been published in various journals and anthologies including Voices from Leimert Park; America: At the End of the Day; and The Drumming Between Us. His newest collection, Blues Red Soul Falsetto, was published in December 2012.

Conney has performed his poetry on television, radio, galleries, universities, grade schools, coffeehouses, and stages around Southern California and across the country, including the Black Arts Festival. He is a talented public speaker with more than thirty years of experience.

Read more about Conney at conneywilliams.com.

Photo credit: J.D. Hancock via a Creative Commons license.

 

The Guides

By Penny Perry

           for my son, Danny

SacagaweaThe summer I walked
the edge of Lake Sacagawea
you hummed inside of me.
Unwed, I was part mama tiger
with a machete,
part little-girl-lost
attacked by wolves.

My two aunts,
women in their fifties then,
took us in.
Fluttering Hazel,
a white witch, brewed herbal tea,
and poured faithful mugs of Postum.

Kay hitched her Daddy’s pants
over her widening hips.
With her singing hammer,
she plumbed and patched the family home.
Cigarette dangling, sipping whiskey,
she told me, “Any family member
in trouble has a home here.”

Kay and Hazel hauled rocks
from the Toutle River,
scattered stones
through thick reeds,
and carved a path
to the warm house
for you and me.

…………………………….

About Penny Perry

PennyPerryKateHardingMugPenny Perry is a six-time Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry and fiction. Her work has appeared in California Quarterly, Lilith, Redbook, Earth’s Daughter, the Paterson Literary Review and the San Diego Poetry Annual.

Her first collection of poems, Santa Monica Disposal & Salvage (Garden Oak Press, 2012) earned praise from Marge Piercy, Steve Kowit, Diane Wakoski and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

I write under two names, Penny Perry and Kate Harding.

Sacagawea photo credit: Adam Pomerinke via a Creative Commons license.