Investing Heavily in Chicken Fat

Weekly feature by: Tommy Paley

I spent a lot of time in my 20s admiring bark.

My teachers in elementary school often confused me for someone who was taller, flatter and often used as a chalkboard and, who was I to argue, as I always aspired to be a chalkboard.

On advice from a friend, I am putting all my eggs in one basket and investing heavily in chicken fat.

I often go downtown on Mondays so I can swing around accountants or, as my dad oddly calls them, street lamps.

As a young boy I often peppered my mother with questions until she figuratively “put me out in the yard.”

In an effort to be a “numbers guy” I gave up letters for a solid week, only to come crawling back after being pelted with under-ripe tomatoes. It was December.

I once jumped over a small pond and, let me tell you, those ducks were super-impressed.

To make my little sister happy, I would often spend hours pretending I was a teddy bear. Why this made a 36 year old so happy I was a little scared to ask.

After careful consideration, I ceased using the letters “r” and “w” for a full year. I never felt more alive.

Seeking revenge, I once ate 25 apples in one sitting. As I clutched my stomach the rest of the afternoon I decided to either let go of my desire for revenge or stop taking suggestions from my friend, the apple farmer, or both.

Friday afternoons used to mean three things: buying shaving cream, laughing at kites and reading poetry. Then I got a second job and was too busy.

I have to restrain myself from climbing up flights of stairs to the top of buildings and then looking down at all of the people on the sidewalk and shaking my head at how puny and small they are. If only they knew what I knew.

No matter how much fun it sounds, “tickling the geese” is rarely a good idea except with particular geese.

When I ride my bike, I like to pretend that I’m being chased by a pack of rabid dogs which partially explains my high-pitched screams and my frantic offers of unlimited doggie treats as I race through the streets. The other reasons have been sealed by the judge who, strangely, usually smells like a combination of wet dog and bike grease.

No one and, I repeat, no one comes to my home before the cows do.

I don’t care what others say, but from now on I’ve decided to live as if each day is Tuesday.

Every six months I go visit this woman who is always going on and on about dental hygiene and brushing and flossing. Others tell me she is my dentist, while I vehemently claim that she is fictional.

My impassioned toast at New Year’s was called “an affront to everything we stand for,” “a call to arms,” “funny?” and “evidence that long-term exposure to industrial-strength soap is a bad idea.”

I used to live by the following motto “one can never have too many shirts” until I did.

One spring morning, I got up, got dressed and went for a walk in the woods. Some say I never returned. I’ve had to ask them multiple times to “stop saying that already.”

Another Slow Sunday

Weekly feature by: Mark Young

The car park is full of conspiracy theorists. There is also a large swimming pool

Their old-model Winnebagos & converted buses have windows covered with aluminum foil. Passersby are convinced they’re disguised hydroponic gardens on wheels. They think the swimming pool is there to provide the water the cannabis plants need.

A continuous loop of the moon landing is projected onto a large popup screen at one end of the car park. At the other, Bugs Bunny cartoons are projected on to the back wall of the local bottle shop so the children have something to watch. The cartoons are regularly interrupted by drunks jumping up & saying either “What’s up Doc?” or “One giant leap for mankind.”

Many of those present wear a 40 badge = FourT = Trump Tells The Truth. Others wear 40+ badges: it represents their age, not that they are more fervent believers in the President. Passersby believe the badges — of either kind — are overstating the IQ of those who wear them.

The Earth is flat, not just as far as the eye can reach but beyond that, right to the edges. At least that is how the people in the car park see it. To the outsiders, it’s just another example of how shortsighted these people really are.

Irreverent Melanin

Weekly feature by: Catie Hajek

The bees are my sisters
The crows are my brothers
Despair is my father
And the moon is my mother
Immortalize my soul
This beauty in me – it must be remembered
Unmake man
Remake him as me
I am entirely too divine
Part my wings
Come between me and the sky-
me in the sky
The tears I shed are glittering like precious gems;
Like stars spotting my sweet brown skin
Irreverent melanin
Oh, I can feel the red sun rising
Its burning up inside my chest
It feels just like a Texas summer
Can’t sweat this out of me
Can’t untie my knotted mind
Please
Please
You keep saying you’ll fix me
Leave my waywardness alone
These scars aren’t yours to touch
Fretting again
Pettiness and vanity bloom
Chewing gum on the pavement
On my shoes
On the fancy white shag rug in your living room
This is what you care about?
Me
Me
Me
I will scream it at the top of my lungs
I will stomp out all your embers
Girls, listen your mothers
There is no love in the water
Steadfast ignorance
Spread the sickness
This is all I get for my trouble
Undone again
Indifferent apologies
Round down your accomplishments
Listen closely
“One time they-”
“Well my cousin told me-”
“I read this article-”
Bleached out propaganda
Reduced, abused and nothing
Lips
Hips
Dicks
Thighs
Give it all back and then some
Memorials on the news
Something closer to humanity
Up and up
On your knees again
And up some more

Emily as She Trapped Herself in Her Garden

Weekly feature by: Darren Demaree

Once you turn your back on the house
& pattern the seeds from the driveway
inward you have to choose

exactly which dirt you will disturb
as you attempt to tiptoe from the black
to the black. I love that she sat there

for an hour with her iced tea, ass planted
in the epicenter of her favorite place.
That hour was perfect in her heart.

She dragged her toes a bit when she got up.
She knew there was no reason
not to leave an exit sign for herself there.

When she looked back at her work
from the rest of the world, she sighed,
she’d left her glass sweating there, in the sun.

Movement #4: Dragon Seeks Path…Dragon Whips Its Tail

Weekly feature by: Sissy Buckles

Surreal April days
returned again,
just like they always did.
My fingers ached from
typing all day
folding and filing and filling
coffee cups
for men blissfully unaware
of the 19th Amendment
in a dusty construction office
and sneaking quick peeks
at my Shakespeare
homework in between
boring invoices while
the spring Santa Ana wind whips
hot brick dust up my nose
offending my eyes
and making me sneeze.
After work my sister cuts
her ex-husband’s hair ‘
in the sunshiny kitchen
still arguing about what
classic rock station
to listen to and what
caused their baby’s rash.
The story of Michael
also ended
on a spring morning
with the death of my father,
mother’s monotonal whispering
out of my dream
a pinched rasp through
the decayed phone at 1AM
‘daddy’s dead from a heart attack’
choking up the spaghetti dinner
my mom cooked that night
all over their marriage bed,
his expensive watch
stolen in the ambulance
ride to the hospital.
My brother is a redneck
who holds conversations
with his hands down his pants
like Al Bundy on TV reruns
I once brained him with
a peanut butter jar
when he said my
old boyfriend Michael
who looked like John Lennon
in Trotsky glasses
while studying photography and
zealously framing
classical black & white
nude compositions of me
in campus Art class,
was a loser and
me, momentarily losing
my cool
(I’m ashamed to say
after an instantaneous
flashback of him
almost drowning me in
our backyard pool,
my fear to this day
of close spaces
assuredly exacerbated
by the many darkly
locked closets)
that heavy jar
traveling a straight
geometrical trajectory up to
the side of of his big head,
but hey, all those times he forced
me to practice ball
with him after school finally
paying off, or you could
say a spontaneous snappy
comeback
to reactionary politics,
a bald implication
(perhaps)
but I’ve never been a coward,
well, hardly ever.
The vernal winds
bore me now with the
sickening stench of flowers
scattered on unkempt graves
in April
and once again
I must concede my
next convicted lover
with the softest blonde hair
to the evasive sea
she puts out fires
in a condescending way
of burned up shuttles
my love’s astronaut bones
welcomed by charming
mermaids swallowing ash.
Leaving me behind in this
flea-ridden city.
I search now.
The cemetery closes at sundown.
My naked hands rake the tall grass
while something small
and mad and furry
shakes in my holes in
it’s newborn slime
it whimpers and wonders
in the name of
lost dignity
and summery mornings
it shimmies in it’s
corner with infernal
perplexity.

Amen

Weekly feature by: Gale Acuff

In Sunday School today I fell asleep
again and again nobody caught me
except maybe for a classmate or two
or even three who didn’t squeal on me
to Miss Hooker, our teacher, and then there’s
God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost and
maybe Satan but I don’t think he hangs
around church but on the other hand who
knows but by sinning I’m responsible
for bringing him around anyway. I
dreamt for just a few moments I was near
dead and up in Heaven just waking when
Jesus reached down and pulled me to my feet,
I was surprised to be all-soul and still
have them and my clothes, too, and then He said
Congratulations, you’re dead and not in
Hell, and I said, Thank you kindly, and shook
His hand and on the third pump I woke to
see Miss Hooker with her glasses off and
eyes closed, looking asleep but she was just
praying, praying, it was the Lord’s Prayer
so I drowned my voice in all the others
and heard all our voices, then, as one, and
Amen as well, and then she set us free
did Miss Hooker, the way the Bible says
the truth will even though it never does
until it’s too damned late. Like it is now.

Belial

Weekly feature by: Frederick Pollack

I was the one who, as the others grieved
in the place already, prematurely,
called Hell, tried to see positives:
“Guys, look what we’ve got here!”
Iron, copper, aluminum, tungsten, salt,
uranium – I knew I was mocked
for always looking where my feet were going,
but the result was knowing ores and signs.
We even had gold reserves; we could start something.
There was also the embarrassing
fact that our hermaphroditic state
was breaking down. The scene was very male,
and with all due respect
to my comrades, the Chief, and, eventually,
Plato, they weren’t my type; we’d have to make arrangements
with the upcoming “daughters of men.”
Before the war I’d counseled patience:
let’s see how Man works out. But the others
were proud. I’m not proud;
I was simply tired of all that celestial fluff.
“What the hell did you expect?” I asked –
playing, so to speak, devil’s advocate –
as my friends complained. Since then
they’ve kept me off the line, on office duties.

You dream that someone comes from afar,
speaking a language you don’t understand,
with a gift specifically for you. Let’s say
it’s a map, gorgeously decorated,
priceless; it must lead to incomparable treasure.
But step back a moment.
How far is “afar”? Does it even
exist in the age of Google Earth?
If you type “illuminated map” and “arcane language”
into a search-engine you’ll find them
eventually. For mystery to exist,
there must be distance, even growing distance,
and lack of communication. That’s what I’m for.

Inconvenience

Weekly feature by: Eric D. Goodman

An excerpt from Womb: A novel in utero

Mom’s inconvenient day was one that weighed heavy on me. It was Dad’s day to go to the store after work; Mom knew she had an extra hour or so before he’d be home. It was time to validate what she already knew but wouldn’t admit. Mom stopped by a pharmacy (not wanting to run into Dad at the grocery store) and did a little shopping of her own.

Another thing she didn’t want to do was to draw attention to her purpose for being at the pharmacy. So instead of buying only the pregnancy test, she bought it along with other items: a value-pack of chewing gum, a box of amber hair-color, a bottle of shampoo, and a bag of extra crunchy potato chips. The pregnancy test moved along the black conveyer belt as an afterthought instead of the main attraction. Mom carried the brown bag of products to her Honda Insight and drove home.

Mom needed to pee on the pregnancy test. She didn’t have to wait — it seemed Mom always had to pee, except for when she had just finished peeing.

I felt ill. Mom’s stress level was high as she anticipated the test, making me dizzy. I already knew what the test would say, but I still could not rationalize away her jittery emotion.

On that afternoon, in her bathroom, Mom carefully read the instructions and wet the plastic tester. As she waited for the result, anxiety swelled in her, ready to burst. I didn’t see exactly what she watched come into focus, but I didn’t have to. I began to vibrate, first small movements, then, like waves building momentum, large, full, shuddering. Mom was crying, and her mood seemed to waver between joy and despair. Now there was no denying me.

Some denial remained. Mom looked at the clock; Dad would be home any minute. She rushed to the corner store for another test. A fusion of feelings welled up inside her: joy, anxiousness, excitement, apprehension, all held together with the adhesive of confusion.

At the convenience store, she purchased an assortment of items: a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of Pepsi, a box of vanilla Zingers. By that time she was afraid Dad might already be home. She decided not to risk being caught. “Can I have the key to the restroom?” she asked the cashier.

The haggard woman took from beneath the counter a wooden block as big as the box of Zingers. Attached to the block of wood hung a chain, and at the end of the chain was the key to the public restroom.

Mom took her plastic bag and the block of wood and walked outside where I could smell people pumping gas into their vehicles. She walked around the corner to the side of the building and struggled to unlock the metal door, balancing the bag of groceries in her arm, using that same hand to hold the weight of the wood block and using her other hand to unlock the door.

She had to feel around on the wall for the light switch; she found something sticky before she found the switch. “Shit,” she said, although it was actually someone’s discarded gum. She locked the door behind her and secluded us in the small cell of filth, smelling of urine, waste, cleanser, bleach, and gasoline. She set the bag down on a dry section of the tiled floor. Mom peed again and administered the test.

There, in the convenience store washroom, she confirmed the inconvenient news: she was indeed pregnant with me.

The water around me was still, but I had the sensation of descending. It was the feeling of Mom’s emotions, falling into an acknowledgement of me. I’d imagined her moment of realization to be a euphoric one, the high of hang-gliding. Instead, we sat in the smelly, filthy bathroom, sadly sinking.

I could have told her, weeks earlier, about my residence within her, had she listened, or had I been able to speak in her primary language instead of this subtle language of feelings and moods. Her mood shifted again and she cried out loud.

Now what? she asked herself. We’re not ready for this. It’s not the right time.

But for some people, it’s never the right time. I wanted to get the idea across to her, but her crying was too disorienting.

Someone knocked on the door and asked if she was okay, and she lied and said that she was, that she would only be a moment. She didn’t bother washing up; this was one of those wash rooms in which washing and drying your hands was more likely to make you dirtier than cleaner. She didn’t bother to collect the groceries she’d bought. She just exited the room, dropped the block and key on the cement sidewalk outside, and returned to her car, sinking into the driver’s seat but feeling more like a passenger with no control over the road ahead.