“PABLO ESCOBAR AND I TAKE A TRIP TO THE CORNER DELI” by CHANDLER BROOKS

I.

Pablo Escobar comes to pick me up from my house at 11:30 on the dot, just like we planned. He’s always busy, so he values punctuality. Even with his schedule, he always finds some time to spend with me. He drives up in a brand new Rolls Royce with bulletproof tires.

“Do you like it?” he asks sheepishly, diverting his gaze.

“It’s a bit… much. But yes,” I answer. “Let’s take my car to lunch instead.”

He looks downtrodden for a moment, but perks up quickly. “That will be lower profile anyway,” he says warmly.

 

II.

Pablo Escobar is playing the new Selena Gomez album from his phone, which is connected to my car’s stereo by a crappy aux-to-cassette converter.

“Whenever I’m with the rest of the cartel, they don’t like to listen to music like this,” Pablo quietly remarks.

“That’s why it’s good to have a friend you can be yourself around.”

Pablo smiles as he bobs his head to the beat. Continue reading

TWO POEMS by WALLACE BARKER

I Feel Like a Young Babe Ruth

 

remembered at work that its actually a big universe

of things you could be choosing to do but I dont know

here we are tweeting abt political conventions again

 

and outside it seems the trees have grown too thick

the shade has killed off all the grass I saw a pretty

lady but didnt bother to look really bc even tho

 

possibilities are endless you have to admit this seems kinda

inapplicable or theoretical at best I was reading one of those

french books that always have to mention the name of every Continue reading

“YOU ARE A PERSON AND THIS IS YOUR LIFE” by JACKSON FRONS

Something goes wrong under earth’s crust. If it doesn’t get fixed soon, everyone will face “dire consequences.” That’s what the politicians say the scientists said. The scientists actually intoned in their reserved scientist way that “a severe likelihood of as yet unclear tectonic abnormalities, causing societal detriment will, in all probability, occur at some point in the immediate geologic future.” “Consequences?” you think, “that sounds a little abstract.” “That’s what the scientists are saying,” everyone tells you.

When you did bad things as a boy, your mother yelled “consequences!” “Henry!” she’d go, “If you don’t stop hitting yourself there will be consequences!” “Put down the hot curling iron! Stop burning yourself with the hot curling iron!” “No more Pez before dinner!” “Young man! Consequences!”

A consequences can be no TV. No Xbox. Strangulation with a tie-dyed scarf. Additional dishwashing. A devastating earthquake that fissure the continents. “Variety can be the spice of life,” your mother told you. Variety, you think, can be quite confusing.

You enjoy doing the same thing day after day. You don’t enjoy being told what to do. You like to be liked. You don’t like yourself. People who don’t like themselves, you understand, become artists. You will be an artist. Your friends engaged with art tell you, “Henry you aren’t engaged with art.” You retort that academia is stifling. You drop out of college. “I felt stifled,” you say. You decide art people are deluded. They don’t know anything about the planet’s suffering. You want to be on the front lines when the world crumbles. That’s where you find your material. “The earth is round,” the deluded fools tell you, “how can there be a front line?” “I’m moving to New York,” you say, “I need a city that understands metaphor.” Continue reading

“WE THINK HENRY DESERVES HIS COMEUPPANCE” by MICHAEL MUNGIELLO

Henry shuts the door behind him.

 

He is Professor of Graphic Novels at our college.

 

*

 

Rather than unfollowing his ex-wife on social media, he has stopped using social media. “You should focus on your work,” his sister says over Skype. “Maybe adopt a dog?”

 

*

 

One of his students presents him with a reddish puppy. Henry loves it, welcomes it into his life, buys it a bed. He notices it still has a tag on its leash. The tag is pink. The tag reads:

 

COPING MECHANISM

 

Henry removes the tag but does not discard it. He renames the dog Death. Continue reading

FOUR POEMS by NATHANIEL DUGGAN

Atomic Bomb Poem

 

Baby come on over I have
an unlimited capacity for failure
I have a cyborg heart constructed
from Honda Civic cupholders I have
a 40oz of malt liquor this night can’t
end I haven’t used my Sam’s Club
Membership yet it gets dark too quick
this close to the sky so close and still
you can’t touch it just like the space
they say exists between every atom
and if we are all built from atoms
then baby come on over I have
never once been touched Continue reading

THREE POEMS by MATT NAVEY

air bag

 

an oak coffin covered in melting asphalt was
loaded from the frenetic purple pickup truck, driven from
the outset of a youtube video, into a walmart parking lot, then into

some inevitable gas station restroom, where the coffin was
refilled with diet dr. pepper, and the truck air bag was
deployed slowly from behind—as if a breeze had blown into a curtain. Continue reading

“INSIDE THE CLEARING, BEFORE THE FIRE” by DYLAN TAYLOR

The air in our clearing was syrup thick. It clung to our sweat-kissed khakis like high-fructose golden treacle. The faces looked identical in the waning daylight—clean shaved, baby faced, white, growing jowly with each year that passed away from the baseball diamond.

 

Our men hauled loads.

 

They see both oceans.

 

They never speak.

 

Our women keep council.

 

They weave, budget, and make the town work.

 

Our women handle conversation like trawl and spackle, warm and enveloping until you’re out the door and these pleasantries flake off into rust like salt caught inside a wheelwell. Continue reading

“CANNERY” by XIM XOM

Many of the greatest merchants in ancient Egypt had one simple secret to their financial success: they ain’t go for no bullshit.

With that in mind, I started working down at the local cannery in 1985.

I needed a job and I didn’t want any BS about it. I held fast to the belief that one day, with enough hard work and perseverance, perhaps I too would become among the most wealthy men to walk the Earth.

I stopped by the front desk and tipped my cap to the receptionist. She shuddered and pretended to take a phone call.

I asked what kind of work needed to be done at the cannery.

“Can things, mostly,” she said with a scowl.

“Well, I CAN do that,” I said, winking so hard I fell over.

Great. So I got the job. Now it’s 10 years later and I know everything there is to know about canned goods. I know what goes in the cans, I even know what goes outside ’em. I know how to open the cans, I know how to close ’em. The only thing I don’t know is how to get paid more than minimum wage for my hard labor.

So I march back up to the front desk and clear my throat. The receptionist puts down her newspaper and slides her bifocals to the edge of her nose.

“Did you hear about this new movie Toy Story?” she asks me.

I say of course I have, it’s 1995. Continue reading

“BEING UNBEARABLY FOCUSED ON INANIMATE OBJECTS WHILE INTERVIEWING FOR A JOB” by PETER JOHN MCLEAN

“It says here you worked in a call center before.”

“Yes, sir,” Leonard said. He stared at a large potted plant in the corner of the office.

The interviewer kept muttering “Good, good.” He kept staring at the resume.

“Definitely learned a lot there,” Leonard added, trying to pry his eyes away from the plant.

“Yes? Excellent,” the interviewer said. Then back again to “Good, good.” His muttering was barely audible.

Leonard tried to turn his head. The skull would move, the neck, the tongue, the nose, and so on. The eyes would not. He would twist his head away from the plant, but his eyes remained preoccupied with the small tree.

“Would you describe yourself as detail oriented?”

“Definitely,” Leonard said. He examined the cracked terracotta earthenware. How long until the pot exploded under the weight of its own soil?

The interviewer cleared his throat. Leonard was sure this was the part where they should look eye to eye. “Hold his gaze,” Leonard thought to himself. “This man is dangling part time employment in front of you, hold his gaze.”

But he could not pull his eyes from the potted plant. It wasn’t his fault. It was the drugs. Continue reading

FIVE POEMS by ISAAC SIMPSON, TIMOTHY BARNETT, & SPENCER DE GAUTHIER

Truth Will Get You by Isaac Simpson

 

When your son comes to you really suffering

You don’t say you look very handsome today
You don’t say there’s sex hormones in your water
You don’t say I’m feeling bullish about Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC)

When your sister comes to you at the very bottom of her life

You don’t say lose a few pounds
You don’t say humans share 98% of their DNA with bullfrogs
You don’t say jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams

When your best friend loses everything

You don’t say they found water on the moon
you don’t say hot Yoga opens the pores of the mind and body
you don’t say Bruce Willis was dead the whole time

What you do say is the one thing

that you know

is not true. Continue reading