Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk

The Trestle

On those sunsoaked summer days
long before cyberspace was invented
we tanned kids would walk gingerly
across massive two by two foot ties
of the old trestle, absorbed by
“Little Deuce Coupe,” “Ahab the Arab”
or some comparable pabulum dialed in
on treasured transistors.

In the early days shortly after
the Boardwalk was built
the Coconut Grove Ballroom
hosted many of the greats.
An oily black diesel train
supplied vitals to the oceanfront.
Its filthy spent fuel
meshed with foggy salt air
as it crossed this trestle.

Long gone by my time, the train
didn’t enter into any equation as we
often had to cope with vertigo,
looking down between the ties.
We’d temporarily lose balance
as we watched the mucky San Lorenzo
push river water into the tide.

You had to be crazy or a football star
to hurry across those ties, counting
each as you went, to honor the rules.

By then iron beams and rivets
of the trestle dangerously corroded.
We couldn’t be bothered by that,
instead focused on the noisy midway
just down the road. We could see
the Mad Mouse ratchet
on steel tracks, riders delirious
as those cars sped unto the undead.
Sunbathers and Volleyballers

The social network grinding overtime,
grist for the daily great escape:
that’s why the sunbathers come here,
avid volleyballers too.
For this is where
continents split, collide and fuse.
It’s difficult to recognize
that Earth ends here
but it does, as evidenced
by the family of blue heron
that form a makeshift V overhead
then wander apart, reunite
as they sail due north
embracing a jagged coastline.
At Stinky Feet

The row of toilet seats
where patrons sit and play
at the Stinky Feet booth
is empty,
no one come to roost at the moment.

The object of this game to shoot
a steady stream of water into balls
of the feet of hand-painted women.
Those faux women holding their noses
as marksmen vie to fill feet and legs.

Standing in front of Stinky Feet
is a brown-skinned boy with an afro.
He gazes up at the Sky Gliders,
sun directly in his eyes.
The Sky Gliders creep along
thick stranded cables:
the passengers’ feet dangle,
passengers awed by the view
out over the ocean, yearning
to touch a curved horizon.

They wouldn’t know if a foot of snow
were to fall on the Mojave
at any given interval.
They’re not gliding high enough,
and not naturally inclined to sense
anything dramatically different
at such a gradual speed. Lovers
snuggle in their little blue gondolas,
wiggle and kiss,
draped by antisemantic joy.
In some cases you’d even think
a cuddly kitten escaped
from cyberspace had joined them.

Lucky Stew, semiretired professional
perhaps from the tomato trade,
suddenly becomes unmired
from invoices, freight, pesticides,
inspections, any such annoyances.
Enamored, he thrusts his date’s head
against his chest so that she can’t help
but inculcate his pounding heart.
For his part this is an impish ruse,
his motive to drive her excitement
and lubricate the expectation
of him planting a juicy one
on those sultry copper lips.

Paused on the Boardwalk

The soul of Coney Island
multiplies and divides
across a permissive sky.
Salt water taffy, candy-coated
chartreuse popcorn
and Gilroy garlic fries
tackle the mustarded corn dawg:
they swamp your gut like a beehive.

Girly girls browse. Arms get tangled
as the crowd mounts
along a palpitating Boardwalk.

Joan in stilettoed high heels,
hot pants rimming her butt,
looped tin earrings bouncy,
remarks how radically cool
the tats on the lad quite burnt
who shines
like a ripe
pomegranate.

Fright Walk

Gargoyles squat on gray brick pedestals
straddling the entrance to this dismal den.

Admission booth shaped like a gaping
shark’s mouth, wide open, horrifying,
sharp blood-stained teeth gnashing.
It’s the only portal through which
to purchase a ticket if you dare.

Before you do you may consider:
once inside, something ghastly
could happen, like the scene you
watched streamed over the web:
a savage Nigerian chops this
porn princess to pieces for lack
of a week’s rent. Unless you help.

You wouldn’t want to revisit that scene
any more than letting the devil’s blood
that runs through the ventilation
inside Fright Walk turn your veins
to sand. Nothing to fret unless
dragons and Gorgons unexpectedly
seize the day, decide to divebomb
and fry your seismic fantasies.

Mostly, beware of gnomes.
They’re notorious for gobbling
skin off of unwary visitors,
gulping it, to regurgitate
into the mouths of soldiers
enlisted in the Argonaut
skeleton army.

Arcade

So easily forgotten in the fog lights
of blanketed history,
the pirate Drake sailed past this beach
en route toward San Francisco bay
where eventually a Barbary Coast
was established, its brothels
and infamous gambling halls
drawing gold seekers en masse.

The arcade jammed with analog games,
no venue for newfangled
digital tomfoolery.
Teenagers playing hooky overwrought
with pleasure as they shove quarters
into slots and run up big scores.

At the far end of this stuffy building
the miniature golf course sits
as it has as long as memory stretches.
The afflated Blackbeard supervises
from the head of a ship orchestrated
by taut pulleys. It rocks,
peering down on diminutive fairways.
Bulbs blink like impromptu galaxies,
circumnavigate to the gait
of thunder blasted from the soundtrack.

Be selective: choose a putter
consistent with your height and weight.
Don’t bank on any divine guidance
to steer your ball into holes
over a course peppered with obstacles.

And when you’ve exceeded par
trying to tap that bright orange ball
through a crocodile’s jaw
past the rain forest waterfall
to the shrieking of one-eyed thieves
who attack the nerves unabashedly
you’ll arrive at the final hole,
a bamboozling mini Kilmanjaro.

The Giant Dipper

If you buy into the dubious wisdom
that nothing explains everything
it follows that something explains nothing
unless you’re living in Tibet. But Tibet
is out of mind here on the Pacific shore
where cyber palaver permeates
ocean, air, even time.

As I ponder my impending escapade
I look upon 327 thousand board feet
of lumber used to assemble
the coaster’s chassis, and notice dry rot.
The quality inspector doesn’t mind,
but I’m a bit concerned:
the coaster is scary enough
without constant apprehension
about potential structural collapse.

I join a parasocial milieu, somewhat
jittery, antsy in the queue.
The line progresses well
since the ride only takes a minute
and 52 seconds. About right
to acquaint one another, click,
advancing up the fancy
carousel walkway.

“It’s a Hollywood set,” says the classy
grandmother with two clean-cut boys.
“Take your picture?” she offers.
I’ve enough of me today, instead
snap one of her and the boys
with a yellow Nikon. And then
we split apart and finally seated
in hard plastic cars.

I take a deep breath, reflect:
millions of citizens
from all over the globe
have sat as I do as if
every nanosecond revealed
a separate destiny.

Sting II, Sudden Impact, Criminal Minds.

No wonder those producers chose this ride
to film unspeakable thrills: we lurch, bolt,
torn at top speed, instantly enter
a tunnel where black stares back, more stark
and wretched than the lowest African slave.

Then immediately emerge to a steep incline
during which I hear chains groan, and a loud
clinking that gives me an inkling the thing
might soon go into overdrive. It does: once
it reaches the summit there is a plunge
that outpaces space itself. Screaming
commences, arms thrown high to prove
how brave you are. No knave,
I’ve been there before. But today
I take a pass. It’s all I can do to
hold on as G forces torture.

I feel as though my genes disperse,
reach out and conduct
every live tentacle in the universe.
The coaster rips, unrelenting,
tosses us without mercy.
It lunges, dives, curving,
rises and dives again.

World without end? Yes, ended,
I unboard with the others, flummoxed.
We each have waiting for us at the exit
a photo capturing
where we’ve come to a halt:
frightened, exalted, transmogrified,
and most certainly not denied
the race of many an incarnation.

© Thomas Piekarski 2014

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Dreams, Sleeping in My Pajamas and Journaling

Dreams, Sleeping in My Pajamas

I am into this vogue look
of highest brow,
highest limb,
branches and arms expanded,
beliefs exposed as nonsense.
I am needle finger pointed
emotions, limited praise.

Canadian winter is a solace
I am a sneaker, a draft dodger
Vietnam War northern pine scent,
pinch of winters spread over the years.

These Edmonton, Alberta temperatures
freeze the roads late at night,
driving past midnight is a squeaker.

I know the young my blur of desires.
I track shifts of young waitresses
travel from one restaurant to another.

Energy increases, then decreases,
flannels keep this body warm.
I am my own fashion designer
You will find me in REM sleep.
There I am the caretaker of creative joy.
There I am the funeral director of my own grief.
Extreme chill, vortex awakens me, my dream ends.

© 2014 Michael Lee Johnson

 
 

Journaling

Breaking news this just in,
1:15 PM December 15, 2013,
I found out labeling theory
has a personality.
It has impact of its own.
I love today because I
found out I have a mental illness.
Formally, diagnosed,
now I am special.
Shrink, Dr. Pennypecker, knows me well.
We visit 15 minutes every 3 months.
I have known him for 9 months.
Simple sentences just make more sense.
Simple sentences make me feel more secure.
After 9 months he says, “I’ve sort of figured
you out, you are a manic depressive, stage 2 hypomania.”
I ask my shrink, “can I cast my vote?”
In this PM news, I gave him permission.
Life is a pilgrimage of pills.
I cast out my net to catch myself,
save myself.
Life is a pilgrimage of prayers.
Note: it could end here.
He does not know the difference
between manias, verses six shots of vodka.
I suffer from a B-12 deficiency.
I need extra thiamine symptoms psychosis.
I place my lid down on forsaken table,
foreskin, I forgive.
A dead shrink, middle of the road.
I crack my knuckles,
pass sleep two next night.
Creativity flows fragmented.
I kick gravesites, up then down.

© 2014 Michael Lee Johnson

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Pieces

She arrived broken, pieces of herself missing – but it wasn’t her fault, really.

The factory sent her that way.

It was a shipping error of sorts, a mistake made somewhere deep in the bowels of the warehousing department, and before any of the fine folks at LifeLike Robotic Industries, Inc. knew something was amiss, parts of her had been scattered across the country, delivered to unsuspecting and very confused consumers.

One beautifully sculpted arm ended up in Indianapolis, Indiana; another in Portland, Maine; a leg somehow found its way to Billings, Montana; and one single, perfect, painfully beautiful eye found itself all alone, blind, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

And so, she was left to hop along the hallways of her new home, unfinished, an incomplete being, and all the while her new owner thought just how unfair this all really was.

 

© 2014 Dave Novak

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I’d Swing

Walking a little closer,

My shadow closes in and grows

Blocking the sun.

I grab the rope and pull it towards me,

Clinging to the laughter.

I shut my eyes

And swing

Back and forth. Unaware

Of time slowly weaving

Little webs, wrapping us together.

 

If I could,

I would swing

While the sun rises and sets

Until the branch sags

And my feet scrape the ground.

Back and forth,

As if nothing would change.

 

But time is pushing forward,

Even if I am ever-swinging.

I open my eyes and

Walk away. 

 

© 2014 Marie Ceske

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Rivers

The girl believed in miracles.

In darkness when everyone else was asleep she lay facedown on her bedroom floor praying for God to give her the miracle of blood. She wanted God to drill the divine nail holes in the palms of her hands and feet. She wanted to feel the wounds of the savior.

So she prayed that way every night. Arms straight as iron in prostration before the open pages of the book about saints that she bought for fifty-cents at the Goodwill.

The book’s spine was as loose as an accordion and some of the pages had water stains like tree rings on their corners. The only reason she got the battered old thing in the first place was because she liked the glossy illustrations inside.

The girl spent hours looking at the vivid paintings of the dead saints. She had memorized the deaths of the saints by arrows, bonfires, drownings, lions, and beheadings.

What fascinated her most was how their eyes were always looking up to heaven. Like they could see God. She wanted to see God too.

It wasn’t easy to talk to God at first. She had not been born to any particular devotion or faith that exalted the saints or believed in miracles. No one in her family, for that matter, knew much about God.

In the beginning she stumbled through her prayers and often fell asleep before God could answer them. When she woke up she’d frantically check her bare feet and hands for any sign of nail-holes, turning them in the light over and over in search of even the faintest scratch.

But there were never any. Just the chill and stiffness of sleeping on floor with her head cradled on her elbow.

She believed the miracle would come someday. It had to.

Last year her mom married a man who lived in a house outside the city limits. She had just turned twelve and the man started touching her when they were alone. He told her that her mother would get angry if she found out about what they were doing.

But the girl believed that even the smallest drop from her hands and feet would stop the man from coming to her bedroom when the moon was high over the treetops.

*

Today was special because the town would celebrate the festival of the veiled saint. She had even fasted yesterday in preparation for the event.

Devotees of the saint believed that a mysterious holy woman in a black veil had preached among the Indians before discovery. The saint, according to lore, bore the marks of crucifixion on her hands. Rome had never recognized her, but the lady saint was still popular in the river town.

The main church where she lived held a festival to commemorate her mission to the Indians. The saint’s day ended with a ceremony where a raft covered with candles and flowers and a statue of the veiled woman was launched on the river.

The festival was important for the town. In the week leading up to the fair, craftsmen sold slender wood carvings of the holy lady at flea market stalls.

At dawn she rose from her prayers, gently closing the book and wrapping it in a piece of brown burlap. She had stolen the cloth from box of scrap materials in art class at school. She did not think God would hold it against her.

She hid the book in the space between the radiator and wall beneath the window. When she pressed her face against the cold window pane, her breath left a mist on the glass. She wrote her name in the condensation. At her closet, she pulled a sweater out of the pile of clothes on the floor. It was the nicest one she had.

She made her way on tiptoes to the kitchen. The light was off, but she jerked back startled when she saw her mother in the half-darkness. The ember from the woman’s cigarette glowed brightly with each puff.

The girl flipped on the light switch. The ashtray next to an empty bottle was piled with cigarette butts. The woman clutched a pair of soiled underwear in her hand. Bloodstains on the garment. It was the girls.

The girl stammered excuses, trying to explain what the man had been doing to her, but the mother slapped her face. The woman yelled that she knew what was happening. The girl was trying to ruin a good thing, she said, trying to tear her and the man apart with her goddamn lies. The mother called the girl a little whore with a little whore’s eyes and a little whore’s mouth and a little whore’s ways.

*

The girl ran from their house to the town square. By the time she reached the place a crowd had already formed there. The festival was underway.

The women of the parish had made a paper mache model of the saint and placed her on a flower-strewn platform in preparation for the river launching. An early morning wind ruffled the silk veil on the saint’s face. The girl almost caught a glimpse of her waxy visage.

She needed to get closer to the statue. She had read that the saint sometimes answered people’s prayers.

She knew she’d have to be careful. The girl didn’t want to make the holy woman jealous. She needed the saint, now in heaven, to listen to her pleas on this special day.

The girl elbowed her way between the people to where the priest was picking out the men who would bare the veiled saint to the riverbank by lottery.

He read out numbered ping pong balls as the girl asked the saint to whisper her request in Jesus or God’s ear. In all the priest called out six names. When he summoned the men, they approached the platform with the statue and bent down wordlessly, heaving the saint skyward on their shoulders with poles.

A band accompanied the saint-bearers as they moved through the crowd. Some people cried out. When the saint passed close to her, the girl’s lips uttered one last supplication for the sign of the messiah’s wounds to fall upon her like lightning bolts. But the only blood to trickle in her hands came from the quarter-moon marks in the soft flesh her hands. She had pressed her fingernails deep into the skin on her palms.

The crowd lurched onward, writhing in the wake of the statue, passing stall games, food courts and vendors with items of religious devotion for sale under billowing tents.

The girl prayed harder when they reached the station where people tossed rose petals and coins in the saint’s path. The silver money flashed in shining arcs before they hit the pavement spinning amid dings.

The girl did not know if it was a vision, but in her mind’s eye she imagined the palms of her hands and feet oozing blood and the men dropping the effigy of the saint and running back to her instead to lift her up on their shoulders.

The girl then saw the men carrying her back to her house for her mom and the man to see her with her hands jutted high to heaven in a visible sign of holiness. The town would not need to celebrate the nameless veiled woman anymore. Even the saint would understand. The girl would be a living sign to the people.

The vision came with a knee-wobbling weakness. It flooded across her. She leaned against a brick storefront but then the cramps came like clawing. She closed her eyes. After the pain she felt something damp in her pants, near her sex.

Her heart sunk as the loud cries of adoration rose around her. This was not the blood she wanted.

When she opened her eyes she had lost sight of the saint. She had blacked out. A few others from the crowd, overtaken by emotion, lay weeping on the sidewalk and road.

She rose, feeling the wetness spreading in the crouch of her pants. She pulled her sweater off and tied it around her waist like a skirt. The pain returned, but the procession to the riverside was moving too fast for her to catch up.

She looked at the crying people around her and the last of the saint followers. She could not go home now. Not with her unmarked hands. Her mother would be even more drunk by now. Then the man would come to her room. She knew he would be rougher than before.

She pulled the sweater lower. The crowd was out of sight, but she did not feel like crying anymore. She leaned against the wall and slid down slowly.

She closed her eyes. The sun was warm on her face. She felt free. Everything about her. Her slow breathing with gravity losing its hold. Like rising. She could sense herself floating with the land rolling up beneath like a scroll. Feel the wind as she glided with her arms spread and her body bending gently with the contours of the land. Moving faster beyond the town and the house and the forest to the river’s edge. A place where she could ease her body into the swirling brown waters and drift south to where the river becomes the sea. Like the saint.

 

© 2014 Tom Darin Liskey 

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NOCTURNAL

striped face
sharp claws
black and white

turns evening
to creeping shadow

stalks the cat
steals the grapes

chews the moon
with running shadow

drums the roof
under busy feet

shortens sleep
until night flees

she climbs a tree
and eats the plums
at dawn

© 2014 Joanna M. Weston

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Bear Among the Dogs

I used to work for the Bear when he was young and strong. It hurts me to see him old and half-lame. But he’s still the Bear. I was there in Archie’s last year when he took on the gringo.

I talk about those times with Bear to anyone who will listen, but some of it is mierda. My wife, she say, “Old days fade and turn into mentiras.” Now I live behind these thick glasses and work in a hardware store in Raton, and the Bear . . . . he never figured that age would catch him. He planned to be young forever. Nowadays a big bushy white beard hangs on his chest, and his hair is white too, and his back kills him most of the time. Bear, he is like the rest of us. He never saved a dime, so here he is at sixty-three still taking people from the city out to fish and sometimes to hunt. He lives in a single-wide he bought in 1972, lives there with his third wife Jennie, the only smart one he ever married. Or she married him.

That last time I saw him, before they took him away, I was in Archie’s Beer Barn, like I said. Archie’s real name is Celestino Archueleto and he runs this bar in a metal building out near Cimarron, mostly for us Latinos. Sometimes Bear would come by.

 

Bear, he’s white and a guide in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Used to be one of the best. In the old days, we ranged all seasons and all country. We carried pale white men back into the mountains for their moment of glory, their cuento de muerte. Bear was part of the mountain – he knew where the animals would feed, where the fish would hide, where the turkeys, they would roost. He acted like a bear too – you could never tell what he was thinking by looking at him.

That day in Archie’s, Bear wore what he always wore, a big dirty coat made out of an Indian blanket, with jeans and boots. Pushed back on his head he had a sweated-out felt cowboy hat with a snakeskin band – a snake he killed himself, years ago. His big belly hung out and he shuffled along like his back hurt, but he had a wave and a hello for everyone. I had hunkered down with some of my friends in the corner, and Bear stopped to talk for a bit. He told us he was down to one truck and one tent.

En buenos tiempos, we kept a full camp, horses and a couple of jeeps. It was our job to pick the sportsmen up at the airport, set up their tents, feed them and pour liquor in them. It was our job to throw them up on the horses, take them to the animal, skin and slaughter the animal once it was dead. Nothing in this was a bad thing. Bear, he respected the animal and its death. Also, the kill by the sportsman – en júbilo for the hunter and good to see. Most of these rich white men, they wanted to be Bear’s friend, so that was okay too. I was Bear’s Mexican, there to cook and wrangle horses, but I’m pretty agringado myself, white enough to keep everyone comfortable. The big thing for me? I got to work in la hermosa tierra de mundo. Until Bear went broke.
Like an animal, Bear don’t live in the past. So we visited about what he had coming up. Outside of coyotes near his casa, he hadn’t shot anything in months – still, he thought he’d make an elk hunt in the Fall. He also thought he’d go fishing soon, and we made noises like we would go too. Then he clomped over to the bar to visit with Archie.

Archie’s, it don’t see many outsiders, but every once in a while, guys out on a road trip together pull up. They park their cars or their bikes or their RVs and they stroll in to soak up Archie’s beer. This day, a bunch of Anglo guys out of Albuquerque had drove up in their Corvettes. They must have been in some kind of car club, a club based on how much they could spend on a toy with four big wheels and a cloth roof. They all chose tables way across the room from us and Archie waddled out from behind the bar to take their orders.

Things went fine for a while. There’s always un buen tipo who can talk to anybody, and so it was this time. This nice guy in shorts and a big fat nose wanders over and we visit for a while. He was retired, but he used to be in the concrete business, so we talked about that, about pouring foundations in the winter, about how far you can truck a wet load. He visited with Archie too and spoke to Bear. His buddies and him, they milled around for about an hour sloshing down the beer.

But if there’s a nice guy in a crowd, there’s also someone ugly, who gets uglier when he drinks. These Corvette drivers had a loudmouth in a nylon jacket, dark hair slicked back from his face. He sat there wavin’ his hands and talking up his opinions pretty estridente. It turns out he was muncho importante, and of course we wasn’t. He had been in lots of great places, and this wasn’t one of ‘em. He drove a great car, and the folks around here, we drove rusty pieces of shit. He was right – we drive what we drive and we buy what we can afford – old men and old trucks.

So Mr. Slick Jacket trots up to the bar to order another round of beer and he talks to Bear while he’s there. First he calls him Cowboy and then he calls him Old Man. Two other guys amble up and lean on the bar too, one beside Bear and the other near his friend, just to be close to Hombre Muncho Importante. Mr. Jacket, he asks Bear, “Do you know you look like Santa Claus with a ponytail?”

Bear takes all this real mild, just sits there on the bar stool. Then the stranger starts in on the White Thing. He says, “Do you actually drink with those dirty Mexicans in the corner?” Meaning me y mi amigos.

I thought Bear was an old man, past all this, but once an animal learns something, it must not forget. Bear jabbed out at this pendejo, fast like a snake – he slammed the heel of his hand into the guy’s nose. Then he grabbed him by the back of the neck and threw la cabeza del hombre down onto the bar, uno, dos, tres. Bam bam bam! The guy folded up like a pile of clothes on the floor at Bear’s feet. The other two Anglos, they closed up quick on Bear and he jumped to his feet. He spun on his toes to face the one and then to face the other.
A long time ago I seen a pack of dogs corner a bear up against a cliff, and it looked just like this. Them hounds would charge in on the bear’s back and he would spin around to try and catch them. This bear grabbed two or three perros and mauled them up quick. This was casi lo mismo, as Bear twisted from one to the other. He held them off with his mal de ojo and his stone face.

Archie had been caught sleeping, but he hustled out from behind the bar with a baseball bat in his hands. He sidled in between Bear and the other guys at the bar and waved that bat around saying, “Now – Now – Now.” The whole crowd of Anglo guys all jerked up from their tables and come running over. The young ones turned all red-face-angry and the old ones grey-shook-up, but they added up to a pack. We Latinos, we nailed our colillas to the chair. Bear might have been my boss once, but brown skins don’t have brawls with white skins and get away with it. I felt real bad about it, but I didn’t do nothing dumb.

Archie stuck the bat out to let them know he’d handle things, not them. The friendly gringo we first talked to helped Mr. Jacket to his feet, got him a bar rag to hold on his face. We could all tell this loudmouth needed the medics – he had left a couple of his teeth stuck in the bar. If Mr. Jacket got hauled off to Emergency, there would be a police report. So Bear, he’d have to have a long talk with the Sheriff.

Bear stared at the bloody-faced man, and he smiled like the sun come up. He turns to Archie and says, “After you call the ambulance and the police, maybe I can call my wife? I bet you they send me to County for this one. Jennie will want to know where I am tonight.”

 

That loudmouth, he got his cuento del vergüenza, beat up by an old man, and Bear got to feel young again. All of us in the corner, we was surprised. We had never known what Bear was thinking. All those years, him the Anglo and us the Mesicans. But somewhere in there he must have been thinking we Latinos were okay. Or at least we weren’t the dogs. Bueno.

© 2014 Scott Archer Jones

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