I sat on a train and tried to turn my mind To a more innocent pastime. Texture. Mindfulness. A godlike hand Sweeps over the landscape. It scrapes my wrist; There are grass stains under my fingernails. My thoughts slip back to the same hand Slipping underneath the slit in a neck To stroke the strange brain. Why does there have to be This barrier of skin Between me and your blood? Let me swap our organs So we can experience Each other from the inside out. I need the intimacy Only the vault of words Into midnight spaces can provide. I bottle your stories A let them mature like wine. I keep your brains in Tupperware boxes As leftovers from a night out In someone else’s head. When my fingers won’t stretch I’ll push them into your skull. Your thumbs in my eyes, Your mouth biting the hand That frees you. I sit quietly In the luggage department With your emotional baggage On my lap And wait for it to bury me. There are still those Who are curious to feel A foreign pulse In the cage of their body. I’m not sure if I could teach this But one way to try Is by losing yourself so completely You could be anyone.
BIO: I’m a 5’1″ sixteen year old with no muscles, but I’m still as scary as I sound. I’m also really nice, I promise.
‘Empty Quivers’ Matt Rouse
There is too much light On this orange county evening And not enough stars in the sky I can see the three belt loops On the tunic of Orion But I cannot see his bow His arrows have disintegrated Inside the cones of phosphorescence Rising from the Wal-mart on the corner
The endless procession of headlamps Snaking its way now interstate 5 Have lulled the hunter’s dogs to sleep And now the Lepus Hare Runs amok in the heavens Propagating and overpopulating The solar systems and galaxies until they’ve thrown off the eco-balance
They’ve eaten all the space dust On the outer rim of the Rigal system Ripped gapping holes In the asteroid belts of Betelguse Nibbled the nitrogen Out of the atmospheres Of all the class M planets In the tadpole Galaxy
So someone has decided To unlock the cage of the lion They have let Leo loose He tracks down the offenders And for a moment order is restored But lions are predators And bunnies make small meals
Leo lunges at Aires Clamps his jaws over its throat And rips out its larynx Then swipes at its stomach With sharp serrated claws Until the ram lies Filleted across space A nebula of pierced organs And bloody entrails The exposed broken bones Of its ribcage glisten In lunar repose Like quasars newly born
Leo murders Cassiopeia in her sleep And spits the crown out At poor Andromeda He tears the wings Off of Pegasus And swallows Scorpio whole Though I imagine He won’t do something like that again The indigestion is almost intolerable He even ate one of the twins Now castor stands alone Slumped over in sickened grief Gemini is just me and I now
But he should not have killed Ursa Minor Now he’s got a major problem As the big bear tracks him Up and down the universe It is all a celestial Public relations nightmare Space is now plagued by starlight flight As the signs of the zodiac Slip into other dimensions The black holes form quickly And collide Can you hear them PING
All this occurs as I look up At a washed out nightscape There is too much light in my city And not enough stars in the sky
BIO: Matt Rouse lives in Orange County where he writes and practices controlled burns at poetry readings. He has been published online at culturedvultures.com and won numerous spoken word competitions.
‘Said the Artist to the Gun’ Torrin Greathouse
The first time I met you I was four years old, thought you were thunder, or the wind fist-fighting trees, or the sound of my father’s voice. I never saw that bullet dig a grave for itself in the chestnut armoire six inches to the left of my head. I didn’t understand why my mother was crying or my father was drunk. I found out six years later he was clearing your throat and forgot to check the chamber. The first time we met, you tried to kill me.
But children—and alcoholics—forgive so easily, especially when it’s family. You and me, we share so much common ancestry we’re practically cousins. There’s been a bullet wrapped around my grandfather’s neck since he was 22 and started feeling homesick for firefights, he hid it inside a crucifix because warfare had become the only thing he had faith left in. My father hung up his boots before I was born, but upturned whiskey bottles to empty them out like all of the boys you empty out, ’cause he missed the burn of tear gas and kept trying to recapture it. So you understand, there are blood ties between you and I. You are the lead embedded in my family tree.
And when I was eleven my father tried to teach me to use you, like he never did with bikes or baseballs or anything a father should, but I was never much good with you, not like my brother, and again I was a disappointment. It was the last time my father and I really talked.
But when I was fifteen, he tried to kill himself with you. He spent a month in the suicide ward, called me from there on my birthday. I haven’t seen him in six years, are you still there reminding him?
Then, when I was sixteen my best friend tried to end his life with you, spent six months in a suicide ward. Now he’s going to school to make movies about people who want to kill themselves. He Skypes his father on base in Iraq and he couldn’t be prouder.
When I was 19 you wore a badge and blue, took more lives than I can count. Spat copper coated death like an outdated commodity, your open mouth blinder than a justice that only sees black or white. we spent that year scared, counting black men’s gravestones, mad men’s gravestones, children buried for the color of their skin, or the pills they couldn’t afford to take. We’re still fucking counting.
And when I was 20 you arched the metal of your back into the wrong hands, left seven in Santa Barbara dead, one of them was my lover’s best friend. And she would hate me for using the word “was.” She still speaks about her in the present tense. She refuses to forget.
Then, when I turned 21 you turned my brother’s hands into weapons and held them tightly while you lead him off to war. I’m hoping you don’t leave another bullet hole in my family tree.
Your greedy mouth has swallowed too many innocent bodies whole. We have all been counting gravestones to sleep for far too long.
So a week ago, when someone asked me about my stance on gun control, my mouth went mute, I couldn’t force anything out.
Now that I think about it, I wish that you could say the same.
BIO: Torrin A. Greathouse is a Literary Journalism student and governing member of the Uncultivated Rabbits spoken word collective at UC Irvine. They were the 2015 winner of the Orange County Poetry Slam. Torrin’s work has been published in several publications including Cultured Vultures,Rust + Moth, Chiron Review, Crack the Spine, and The Metaworker, and one chapbook “Cosmic Taxi Driver Blues.” They are currently employed as the executive assistant of a sustainable lighting firm. Their previous jobs include security guard, farm hand, antique store clerk and tattoo artist.