new work






bryan e.

chi chi

j.t. blue


zink poe

vol. i,
issue xiii
steal this......................................knighteater


catflesh countrycide......................eric w. bragg

boneapple....................................derek henkel

exhaling agony.............................april pittman

junkies........................................emily fleshman

Steal This

I wanted to know her body like a patient cartographer. To commit her to
memory, to love all of her as if I had eternity to do so, rather than the
last fifty or so years of a man. And I wanted the same from her, or perhaps
less. I wanted what she gave me- I wanted to see the slight rise in her
chest when she detected my scent in the air, the stillness of her body in
that one moment. I wanted that pause in her speech, nearly undetectable.

She studied the relics of my thirty-year life, the handful of books on a
shelf, the pattern of the wrinkles in my sheets, the treads of my shoes,
the precision of my clocks and watches, the angle and curve of my ink, she
was my Holmes, I her Ptolemy. We were patient, though it is easy to say
we were patient when we saw one another daily. We were unfrustrated by a
week between seeing one another, and when the time between us grew to two
weeks, we would embrace with a secret fierceness- I pressing my lips to the
edge of her hairline, to reassure myself that I knew the exact placement
and feel of it, she pressing her nose and mouth to my shoulder, to remember
the texture of my shirt and the smell of my laundry detergent. We would
spend these evenings reuinited with our eyes gleaming with the sight of one

Then came the months apart. We devoured each other in those too short moments-
my hand slipping up the back of her shirt in public places, to re-memorize
the curves of her body before she was gone again, she snatching up reciepts
and scraps of paper, pocketing anything that might give her some way of archiving
my life again.

She was a traitor when we reunited a year later. Subtle, subtle villain
she was. Her transgressions nearly made me doubt my own memory, so slight
were they- her hair two inches shorter, a shade lighter, parted nearly imperceptibly
a bit further to the left. She was still beautiful, slender with hungry
curves, but her breasts had swelled slightly, I nearly believed that it must
have been my own memory which was flawed. I must have forgotten the slight
wrinkle in the corner of her eye, the freckles across her shoulders, I told
myself. But soon the little sins she had committed against me were too numerous,
too obvious for me to pretend she hadn't changed. I was polite, not voicing
the transgressions she'd done in my absence, and she was polite, seeing too,
that I had recognized her flaws. She complimented my jacket, however wisely
declined my half-hearted offer to show her my new apartment.

knighteater ©2003


I am quietly clinging to my armor
even as it's worn away by time and wisdom
I forge newer, better protection
steel instead of iron
then titanium instead of steel

lighter, more flexible
less noticable

If we have to stick to metaphor
I was born naked as a newborn
and at the risk of spewing angst
I learned to put on clothes
then a coat
then, of course, the armor

I was clumsy at first,
movement was difficult
it was sort of as though I'd cut holes in a cast-iron garbage can
stuck my head through one and my arms through the others
coffee cans on my arms and head
obvious and silly

But I became skilled at my craft
and over time I learned
the art, the beauty of arms and armor
so skilled am I that people marvel at my work
rarely do they realize that its function is more important than its form
It's beautiful and enticing - shines blindingly
with intricate engraving detailing
my story
so small that you won't notice it
unless you're looking

It's so beautiful, I say
it fits so well
I've come so far, and learned so much
Look at me!
I'm invincible
beautiful and glorious
like that virgin war goddess
whose name might invoke a cliche
so let's not and say we did.

I won't take it off- why would I?
It doesn't really interfere with my life
I still laugh, I still work
I still learn and I still live
sort of
and besides, without it
would I be as beauteous and brilliant?
As seductive and suave?
as sure of my own value?

I can't find the clasps, I say,
I've forgotten how to take it off
It's become quite complex over the years
with a system of locks and
mechanisms that I'm not sure even I can decipher
without a master locksmith
or perhaps a thief.

But really, what it comes down to, is that
somewhere, underneath all this
there is a pale, strange, unusual girl
with over-tender skin that never learned to protect itself properly
a great, writhing fear that
she doesn't know how to dodge a blow.

I am clinging to my armor
but it's slipping from my grasp
I think I'm growing out of it
but too quickly, too fast
I don't know if I'll have time to make another suit
before I'm standing here
naked as a newborn
wondering what to do next.

la dama ©2003

catflesh countrycide
eric w. bragg

An underwater train caught on the tracks of mirrors is the roller coaster of unconscious aquaria. The glass marbles laid down upon the tracks were systematically shattered to reveal the cat's-eye chips embedded inside. Once the tracks were flooded, the eye-chips became holistic magnetic inserts to be placed within the sockets of eyeless baboons who had ruptured all relations with burning fish that once were limp teeth. The mirrored tracks used their waterfalls to crack the glass windows of obsidian that presided over them, several clueless flights above. Butterfly skeletons fell from the ceiling, fine configurations of dust, and left designs of salt upon the balding foreheads of the baboons with cat's-eye chips inserted into their previously empty eye sockets. The pulse of the reticulated train slowed to a relaxing crawl as the underwater viper disappeared through a side tunnel, never to be seen again, at least until the next chaotic holiday season.

A door opens, disguised as a mirrored panel, revealing a trio of storm trooperettes, dressed in black, of course. These storm trooperettes synchronously raise their left hands to each display a silver ring cast in the shape of a low-cut party dress affixed to the band portion. In the region of the bellybutton, there is a clasped ruby, making the ring sparkle with red brilliance. The dark female figures confer among themselves, while they each turn their rings 180 degrees so that the miniature silver dress and ruby parts of the ring are clasped in their closed fists. In the dim light of the mirrored train room, amid the shattered glass of the extracted cat's-eye marbles, the storm trooperettes clasp their ruby party dress rings, causing the inner light of the gems to reveal the bones in their hands. This display of power terrifies the baboons with the implanted magnetic cat's-eye chips, who run after the long-gone train that sped away minutes before, attempting to flee the potent, muted whispers of the darkly clad women with their illuminated hands.

The onyx ceiling falls in on the underwater subconscious train station, obliterating whatever lingered. Perhaps the whispering women in black were crushed, but then perhaps not. Probably not.

In an alternative universe, a downwardly spiraling gale of gliding seagulls comes near to rest upon a dysfunctional family who are currently obsessing over their hairdryers. Next to their neurotic pencil bones, the x-ray of a gated mansion equipped for the unlimited entry of only cats, exclusively, looms high within the brains of children who sleep underneath developing tanks of orange lighting in the halls of hospitals lined with the midnight scampering of silverfish and transparent geckos. A woman's voice of crystal softness enters the ear canals of the sleeping children who die within their dreams underneath the diabolical developing tanks in a world of nether-emotions and superficial armchair cigar conversations. Old know-it-alls with beards, books and bank accounts exploit the sleeping minds in their icy frozen repose, paused until life might resume again with the wag of a finger or the stroke of a pen. Thank gODD for heart failure. The voids of time open the locked book doors, revealing stale red carpet, useless bookshelves full of useless books, as well as the dusty living-room typewriter. Apparently Santa Claus has been indisposed for several centuries now.

Trauma hounds keep running towards the stopped train that is stuck, mired, hung-up at the turning point between life and death, fallen prey to second-guessing and underwater, upside-down garden hourglasses, allowing the inverted images to breach only small parts of the blood-stained glass.

The oracle at Delphi is really a buried larynx from below, and this fact enables teetering grandfather clocks to dry off next to a comfortable hearth in the shadows of a cinderblock domain, where red-lit developing photo rooms are treasured and enunciated with the greatest of care and refined teeth. The subconscious larynx rasps at the undergrowth of great redwood forests that sink tendrilous roots down to touch the throat, and teeth erupt from fossils, causing the tense air to ionize in a flash of airborne sparks. This commotion causes the train to crawl forward down the mountain, crashing through gangrenous underbrush. A flirt with fire sends the train scampering down the popsicle mountain. Still in the underbrush, the wild eyes of fire peep through the dried weeds, building the cities of the mind, where the duality of existence teases the palate and pate of a bronze-dipped skull. The choking vermin did not know what hit them after the cinderblocks of the train melted into a warm puddle of dog urine. The train burns up from the grand old steepest descent options, a complete ember that rests on a jambalaya shrunken head. The conga drums liberate the fissures of the skull as the train, now a glowing cinder, enters the microscopic world in a blaze of glory, a magnified icicle that didn't make the grade, that missed the train, or boat, rather. Did I say boat? Poor choice of words.

I see you locked up in your baboon house of glass, with lollypop perfection and the invisible, starred wallpaper. Your wooden limbs are organic, but they still don't fool me. Perhaps you made the correct drop at the correct bridge, but the noisy stones do nothing to conceal the type-written terror of a pocket-sized guillotine that you once used on hairy rodents that blessed your fireplace altar where the pumpkins fell down the cellar stairs into the neon blue basement garden. Eventually you placed another rodent's skull in the way of the guillotine blade, and your cruelty became magnificently apparent. No pausing for you.

And you didn't stop there: your collection expanded to include the severed heads of many vertebratesbirds, mammals, reptiles, and even a few invertebrates thrown in for good measure. After a while, you ran out of room to house your head collection, and so you moved the entire group to a museum warehouse where you charged a hefty admission and ran a concession stand in the lobby where your staff sold cocktails made from the fresh blood of a snake. At the grand-opening you boasted of plans to include humans in your exhibit, creating simulated habitation rooms displaying the skewered but preserved guillotined specimens of fine family members in various acts of post-nuclear dysfunctionality. The red curtain draws to a close upon your depraved specimens, and they retire for the evening, fully exhausted, a veritable challenge for any back-scrubbing taxidermist. I have problems making out your shape as your dark form disappears over the next hill. Save another day for your museum.

A few miles offshore, at the bottom of the ocean, polluted scallops hesitantly extend their languishing tendrils to explore the backseat of a sunken, rusted 1956 Plymouth jalopy that perished many years before. Even though the radio was left on, there is no battery power, and the scallops are sorely disappointed. A monstrous floor current lifts the corroded wreck and carries it off the continental shelf to where it falls to the depths of salty black time. On the shore, some primates find the flooded houses of absent Caucasians, perhaps carried away by the flood. Within the submerged houses, the primate divers find all windows and doors padlocked and sealed with a chain-link fence. After cutting through, the divers find swarms of vicious barracuda lingering inside. The writhing, drifting fish have had cubes of their flesh neatly excised with a sharp blade, revealing a white skeleton underneath. The skeletons of these fish become an ivory chain-link fence, and the fish templates are peeled from the organic lattice. One primate has his fish with lemon and butter, while another decides upon garlic and chipotles. The primates laugh and climb the roofs of the houses, which are above the water's surface. A swarm of fruit bats nears and casts a wingspread shadow upon the breasts of the primates. The monkeys raise their hands in abnormal deference, allowing their chests to open to reveal bronze statuettes of finely toned pornographic squirrels. Each bronze pornographic squirrel statuette has rubies for eyes and is equipped with panoramic teeth that serve as katana blades. Once the bronze pornographic squirrel statuettes have been revealed, the swarm of apocalyptic fruit bats seizes all of the naughty statues and replaces an equivalent weight of sand into the bared chest cavities of the now-deactivated primates. The bats then return to the dark sanctuary of their cave nests after the transaction has been completed.

When night falls, the bats emerge from their caves in search of fruit that have been coated with a fine layer of condensation. On this particular night, the fruit bats decide to forage within a netted vineyard, where the grapes are plump and yellow, sometimes, like tonight, with a frosted, powdery appearance. Each bat selects a choice grape and flies off, holding the fruit orb with both claws, heavily resembling a mobile optic orb sometimes manifested by certain winged, mythical beasts. On a neighboring hill, within the safety of a house for battered children, two girls observe this grape-foraging spectacle and decide to do their laundry. The clothes-washing process takes all night to complete, but in the morning the girls are not tired and they see octopods with unnatural numbers of arms pressed against their sunlit windows, displaying fleshy colors of ochre, purple and red. The vision of the many-legged octopods amuses them greatly, and they refer to anatomical textbooks to gain a better grasp of why the bulbous cephalopods have so many extra legs, and why they might enjoy basking in the sunshine. In the distance, the view of Chesapeake Bay is visible to the girls, and they ask permission from their therapist as to when they might be allowed to go mingle their toes with the warm, brackish water. The therapist shakes his head and gives them a wad of cash register receipts, indicating that they might never leave the house. The paradoxical beauty of a Saturday for slaves.

Under five feet of stratified water in the bay, male blue crabs spindly march over rocks, nervously flexing their pincers and snapping at all things that swim by, acting as an underwater army of ants. A microcosm of shopping malls and all things civilized with yowling babies and leaking car batteries, even the nose of a man who laid claim to a concrete shower stall in the amphitheater for the isolated wealthy. The fashion of past decades reigns supreme under these fertile waters which the orphans admire from their sky-lit windows with adorning octopods. Unknown is the full extent to which this truly brackish subculture exerts its tidal influences on the lungs of the orphan sisters who learn algebra by day and rewash clean clothes by night. In the end, all that remains is a pile of rusted horseshoes that will supremely challenge the reality principle, slapping it on its backside and tossing out figurative bones for it to fetch.

eric w. bragg ©2003
A selection from the piece, "Catflesh Countrycide,"
in At the Threshold of Liquid Geology, and other automatic tales

Derek Henkel

  The bus stops. The driver opens the door. I jump inside, sticking a crumpled dollar bill into the pay slot. I sit in the first empty seat I find, feeling like putting a fist right through my window.
  I can't believe her! Coming home and tearing into me about some bread crumbs!
  The bus stops, letting people off and on and I refrain from eye contact. I wish I had sunglasses.
  Why on earth do people become married? To test themselves? To see how much aggravation they can tolerate before they get axes and run amok?
  A sharp bolt of pain slithers straight through my head causing me to close my eyes.

  I open my eyes, leaning forward, holding my head in my hands, taking deep breaths. After a minute or so I sit up and a flush of nausea rolls over me.
  I am going to be sick.
  I push open my window to its maximum crack, inhaling the hot breeze, trying to regain my thoughts.
  "Shut that window!"
  "I feel sick!"
  The driver glances in the big rear view mirror my way, then decides to let me be.
  Why does she have to make everything so hard? She is so selfish, pig- headed, short tempered, reactive, and defensive. Just like me.
  This depressing realization hangs heavy on my shoulders. I close my window, staring stupidly out at the scenery.
  "End of the line."
  I stand removing a bus schedule from a plastic slot.
  On the sidewalk a vendor wearing bright pink sun block on his nose sells hot dogs next to a cart with sunglasses. I remove my wadded bills and find I have only two dollars.
  I need sunglasses.
  I see a crowd gathered behind the chain link fence of the construction site for the new convention center, and cross the street to see what has their attention. I peer over an elderly woman. A portable toilet rests on top of a body. A twisted brown-gloved arm, and leather-booted legs extend from underneath the commode.
  A boy holding a skateboard with his bangs hanging in his eyes finds this funny and snickers while the police try to disperse the crowd.
  No one leaves.
  A crane is brought around, lifting the portable toilet off the body, revealing a young man, open eyed and crushed.
  A bloody empty frame.
  Nothing like the movies or television.

derek henkel ©2003

Exhaling Agony
April Pittman

I'm walking into the rain with candle glued to hand, persistant
nursing the flame that refuses to stay resurrected long
the deformity that is child in a woman's body watches me
from a window perch, her ugly black poodle-mut in her lap
and grins with a glazed look in her eyes
above her in a window much the same
sits a little boy, face strained from the stress of growing up
voice sober with the weight of an old soul
looking after me as I walk further away from our childhood
and into the arms of that which was least expected
that which fits none of my standards or desires
but makes me happy all the same -for now-
the bridges burn in my wake with startling ferocity
I've never felt solid ground beneath my feet
always one step ahead of the flames with no chance of return
one step away from being consumed by my mistakes
and irreversibly made into the world's favorite joke
told in every baudy beer house and pool hall
I'll have become the ice-breaker, cheap amusement
no one will remember my love for you
and that in loving you I became God-like
they'll only know that I've failed to walk this track
failed to fit within their lines and follow their rules
rules which they hope could equate to harmony
sometimes I feel as if these constraints on my heart
are killing me with slow precision
sometimes I could scream until the end of time
when the air in my lungs was gone I'd exhale agony.

april pittman ©2003

emily fleshman

i know i look less dead
as dead
than i did when i was
you confess:
beauty never felt so wonderful to touch
as when it clams up in your hands
and has
no pulse

like mine?
spoon and needle
it's amazing how simple
a heroin cooker can be

i only saw one in real life
they brought it in for a demonstration
in 8th grade
on what drugs looked like
and i was feeling smart
i'd seen ecstasy
and smelled pot burning

settling in my nostrils
sweaty and residual
like half-greased
cookie sheets

bud light on my


emily fleshman ©2003