Mark Jenkins, John Valentine, CL Bledsoe, Jack Phillips Lowe

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Mark Jenkins recently completed a MFA at Bowling Green State University.

Counting in One
I've been in the practice room long enough to say that I've got rhythm, though the beat is a freshly executed drummer. It was last Wednesday that I stranded myself on a twelve bar line with that Finn, Sibelius. A fly just slid into my cappuccino. No amount of flailing will save either of us now. My bassoon is the best telescope German engineering can't buy. Some notes will do anything to get out of the blockade. I want hand clapping to resurrect the downbeat, so each time I listen to “Better Git It In Your Soul,” I pray to Charles Mingus, please, let me clap for your band. Attention, the time capsule is closed. If nothing else, the baton won't burn. The tubas should arrive any moment, leave the cello behind.

John Valentine teaches philosophy at the Savannah College of Art and Design. His chapbook is entitled "Combing the Hair of the Dying."

Juggling Cats with Dali, 1968
We were tucked in
the pages of dreams,
you with your locket
of alms and I with a bottle
of war. The bookmark fell
to Dali, halfway
between history
and the floor, impossibly
light in the eye
of a camera, caught
in the orbit of cats.
A tangle of limbs
tossed in the air,
a moment in space
where nothing came
down, where everything
hair was on end,
his grin was a shadow,
and we laughed, tore up
the page, and scattered
the snow to the wind.

CL Bledsoe is an assistant poetry editor for the Hollins Critic and a founding editor for Ghoti Magazine. He has work in Nimrod, Story South, Margie, Natural Bridge, Diner and Copper Nickel, among other places. He currently attends the MFA program at Hollins University.

Driving Around, Looking in Other People’s Windows

We were surprised that so many of you sit, fully clothed,

iseparaten  rooms watching TV. Sometimes you have fences,

and through the cracks we see your pale, bored children awash

in the glow of video games while not doing drugs.

More of you than you would think leave your blinds open

in rooms where you don’t commit murder;

your bloodless hands stained with popcorn butter which you eat

on clean, soft sofas we say we'll have some day.

We've seen you, hairy and shirtless with veined, white paunches standing over the bodies of lawnmowers you wished you knew how to fix.

Whole families of you not speaking, sitting separate in the same rooms with living room sets we'd like to find for a good price.

We soak the scenes of your tasteful kitchens up like gravy on cornbread, savoring all the lives we might someday lead.

This is how we digest our one meal out a week; our Saturday night splurge. "You should’ve known it would be like this," she says, turning back

onto a major artery and angling towards home, "when the first time

I told you I loved you, was when I was drunk."

First published in the Amherst Review



Waiting For Test Results, Barnes Hospital, St. Louis


Let me tell you how it is: your palms

don't so much sweat as drop off. Your arms

follow. This spreads like Novocain into your chest,

ignoring your head which is numb already, believe me,

from being beaten against whichever walls

have presented themselves. Your chest

is consumed and you can feel the lack of feeling

pulled over your stomach by gravity, leaving a puddle

around your heart – untouched –

because, though you may not have needed your head to live

this long, you will require heart to continue. It stops

somewhere in your torso and something else happens

to your legs; they grow dumb and will respond only

to voice, so that when needed they come only after much shouting.


An envelope or a file, or some such, will be handed to you

soon. Your hands – those dead, traitorous things – will take it. Common sense

would tell you to run, leave the yellow doom on the stiff chair

for some other bastard to dread.

There is sky that some part of you could wake up to;

there is a breeze that you will not feel again for some time,

but common sense does not yell loud enough

for those legs you call yours to hear.


First published in Lifelines


Jack Phillips Lowe is Chicago-born and raised.  His fiction and poems have appeared in Barbaric Yawp, the Iconoclast, Lucid Moon, the Lemming, and Open Wide, among other small press outlets.  He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, So Much For Paradise (Muscle Head Press, 2000) and Long Form (Free Thought Publications, 2003).  His collection of short stories and poems, What’s Passed Is Passed, was published by Onzo Imprints in late 2004.


A Compromise

He looked it over from the north. He looked it over from the south. Then, of course, the east and the west. He sighed heavily. From every viewpoint, it was the same. He didn’t know what to do. He just knew he had to do something.

Resting his chin on his folded hands, he looked to the stars for inspiration. Corny, for sure, but where else could someone in his position look? He thought back to the early years. Inspiration was easy to find then. When he first started, the whole thing seemed like a game, with countless options and unlimited possibilities. What was the old adage? "The confidence of ignorance"? Or was it "innocence"? No matter. The whole thing had changed, and not for the better. Now it was a job, a chore even, with nothing but lost opportunities and wasted potential. The whole thing, quite frankly, disgusted him.

Most of all, they disgusted him. He hated to pass the buck, but they were the troublemakers. He had given them everything, literally everything they had. And how they’d pissed it away! Hadn’t he been patient? Yes. Did he pester them? No. Did he give them a second chance? Yes, over and over again. Had he been a harsh taskmaster? Well. . .perhaps they had misunderstood him, interpreted his "tough love" as punishment. If he had been too exacting, it was only out of compassion. Did they think he’d just let them run wild without consequence? Surely they saw his reasoning. They would at least give him credit for caring.

Wrong. Compassion was one thing they did not inherit from him. When they weren’t torturing each other, they were torturing him. They condemned him for everything and credited him with nothing. He’d heard their constant criticism and open curses. That was bad enough. When they ignored him and deliberately defied him, well, that was the worst. Imagine giving someone you love all of yourself, only to earn their indifference. Yes, he’d admit it now. They often drove him to tears.

Everyone has their absolute limit, and his back was pressed against his. It was hard and cold, like the choice that sat clearly before him, the choice that would instantly solve his problem. Yet, he loved them too much to make it. They were, after all, his flesh and blood. He couldn’t do that to them. They had a right to their own lives. He told himself he still believed that. It took some convincing, but he did.

He leaned back to massage the tension from his neck. As he rubbed his aching muscles, it came to him. A compromise. It was as horrible as the choice, but a viable option nevertheless, and the only option he had. Something had to be done. Such screaming and wailing! He couldn’t stand it anymore. He was, in spite of his feelings, sick of them and all they entailed. So this would be his course of action. They’d be happier and so would he. Yes. Really. Yes.

He stood, backed up a few feet and looked at it all again. North, south, east and west. Quite a piece of work, altogether. He considered them, all of them, one last time. Would they miss him? Hardly. They’d be fine. And if they weren’t, it wouldn’t be his problem. They would be on their own.

He breathed deeply, stepped to his left and turned one-hundred and eighty degrees. The lights and sounds of their world faded behind him as he stared into the vacuum ahead. Space, wide and dark and completely open. A faint wind whistled past his ears. He swallowed hard, raised his hands above his head and opened his mouth to speak.

"Okay," God said. "Once more, from the top. . ."