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Clown Wigs by Jason Conner

My neighbor speaks to me
in a language
I can longer comprehend.
Judging by his demeanor
it is an urgent matter
he is trying to address.
I hand him a pad of paper
and a pen and motion for him
to draw his concerns.
He draws a burning building
with clowns diving to their doom
with wigs aflame
and smeared face paint.
I try to express my confusion
but instead of words
fireflies flicker from my lips
pelting my neighbor
in his bewildered face.
The paper boy tosses
clown wigs at our feet.
It is then I notice we are
no longer in my yard.
but on top of a building.
My neighbor sadly smears
paint on our faces
as smoke obscures the scene.
Jason Conner’s work has appeared in: The Wisconsin Review, The Eclectic Muse, The Kelsey Review, The Penwood Review, Soul Fountain, Nomad’s Choir, The Oak, The Pen, Lone Stars Magazine, The Indented Pillow, and the online magazine Jerry Jazz Musician. He is a Social Worker living in Eugene, Oregon. When he is not writing, he enjoys backpacking in the Pacific Northwest and spending time with his wife and two daughters.

Cicadas by Tamara L. Panici

the ditches lining our neighborhood 
              walks   are littered 
with the     hollow bodies    of cicadas
who are done  finding mates  & 
      thus done         with all         of life.
Their desiccated   corpses crumble
       under no weight                  giving  
themselves       to the humid       
       summer eucharist          & with a
kiss      of the wind           their entire
existence                                     undone.

 

Tamara L. Panici can be found picking up heavy objects, walking too far, and writing on anything you leave behind. She has recent or forthcoming work in Abyss & Apex, Black Poppy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Fjords Review, and Flash Fiction Magazine. She thinks we should all eat more vegetables and be nicer to each other. 

The Demand by Tony Iovino

And it’s a sweltering late afternoon
Shimmering waves pulsing off concrete
Even as the sun starts to flee
From what it has wrought on this southern city that’s
Not my home,
Not my turf,
And I head to the corner
Gonna turn left, then right, and get back into the conditioned air,
Peel off this shirt that clings,
The miracle fiber failing to wick away
my body’s soggy attempt to cool itself
And he’s there.

He was passing me
Hands on a walker, but he’s stopped and turned
And he’s here.
Right here.

And he says

Help me, I got nuthin’.

And time stops

as I assess
He’s not a threat.
He’s old and bent and weak-thin,
Body-abused-thin,
Cheap-whiskey thin.
He’s no threat to my body.
Older though I’ve gotten
There’s still strength in these arms
And muscle-memory of youthful fights.
He’s no thug, no skin head, no beered-up younger version of me.

And time is still frozen on this blistering sidewalk,

Is he a scam artist, a con, a grifter
Diverting my attention so my pocket can be picked?
Is this an act? Will he toss the walker
And Ussein Bolt it down the street,
My wallet clutched in that withered hand?
No, no, He’s no threat to body or purse.

Still, no please was uttered, no supplication.
A demand.

Help me. I got nuthin’

And you. Look at you, his eyes accuse
You, you got a lot,
I can see it
We both know it
Yeah, well, I earned every bit of it, I silently rail
I worked for it
I didn’t put it up my arm or
Waste it on slow horses
Or cheap gin or a crack pipe.
I studied when I could have partied
Worked when I could have partied
Stayed late at the office when I could have partied.

And time remains anchored
Not a second has ticked
And I flash on the warnings
Don’t give to the street peddlers
It can ruin a neighborhood
They can ruin a neighborhood
This isn’t a made-for-TV tearjerker
Or a liberal nirvana
Street people too often are sick
Too often dangerous
Too often a threat
Give and you’re part of the problem
But I hear Jesus and I hear Buddha and
I even hear my softer self reproach me
And my guilt rises and
My anger flashes at this decrepit old man

Demanding, not begging,

Feeding my guilt
Playing my guilt

And time stays rooted
And I reach into my pocket
And I thrust thin paper into his bony hand.
He’s not a threat,
Except to my sleep tonight.
I thrust green faces at him
Solving nothing
Changing nothing
But cheaper than ambien

And we each walk on.

TONY IOVINO IS THE FOUNDER AND HOST OF THE ACCLAIMED SUMMER GAZEBO READING SERIES IN OCEANSIDE, NY, NOW IN ITS 11TH SEASON. HE IS THE AUTHOR OF THE NOVEL “NOTARY PUBLIC ENEMY” (DIVERSION PRESS, 2011) AND NUMEROUS PUBLISHED POEMS AND ESSAYS.