Mad Man

for some reason
don draper notices me on the subway
maybe we’re both going uptown
perhaps we both have really big dicks
i tell don he’s such a conniving shit
that it’s hard to feel compassion
he asks if i’ve ever watched the show
do i know the half of it
what about the flashbacks
and the switching of the military dog tags
doesn’t that do anything for me
betty draper meets don at his stop
with her fat suit deflated
just a mold of ratty-smelling plastic wrapped around her ankles
and betty resplendent again
how fair is that I ask
it’s fucking tv don says
peggy looms in the background
rocking a tartan schoolgirl uniform
with the skirt drawn high up to her thighs
cleavage spilling over
the top of a crisp white blouse
that’s it i think
my life is nothing but a television show
so much happens
yet i’m always a spectator
go on
go ahead
feed me another fantasy
i’m hungry
and eager as hell

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online literary magazine Metazen. His story collection The Dark Sunshine debuted in January from Connotation Press and his next collection, I’m Not Supposed To Be Here And Neither Are You is forthcoming from Aqueous Books in January 2015. You can find him at http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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Suicide Announcement

someone told me
there’s nothing wrong with suicide
so long as you
give folks a head’s up first
sort of like sharing your virginity
with the boy from Holland who visits during summer
well maybe not like that exactly
maybe it’s more like yelling fire in a movie theater
or wearing a scarlet letter on your forehead
either way i’m putting you on notice
no i’m not killing myself
but i am about to murder your darlings
all those panties with the tags still on
all those love letters stashed in a shoe box
i’d like to get our apartment burned down by four
before traffic becomes a bitch
and just before your shift ends
that way we can listen to the sirens together
watch the sky light up
the way you and I never did

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online literary magazine Metazen. His story collection The Dark Sunshine debuted in January from Connotation Press and his next collection, I’m Not Supposed To Be Here And Neither Are You is forthcoming from Aqueous Books in January 2015. You can find him at http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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Probably Famous

maybe in ten years
you’ll find me or
I’ll find you
you might be sliding down a stripper pole
and I might be holding a benjamin between my teeth
perhaps you’ll become a billboard with a pepsodent smile
your grass-green eyes should be trademarked by now
everyone knows that those abs are off-the-charts ridiculous
anyway you were always more ambitious
bludgeoning cronies on a lark
taking two scoops instead of one
waving wax-on wax-off at the ticker tape parade
after all the carnage
it’s insane to think about you
as much as I do
but hey
time’s a slippery bitch
even when you’re wearing boots
whatever city you landed in better hold its breath
call the bomb squad
alert the media
start a very thorough investigation
and fingerprint the witnesses

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online literary magazine Metazen. His story collection The Dark Sunshine debuted in January from Connotation Press and his next collection, I’m Not Supposed To Be Here And Neither Are You is forthcoming from Aqueous Books in January 2015. You can find him at http://lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

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This is Your Detective Story, This is Your Hard-Boiled Detective Story on Drugs

“I got here as fast as lawful adherence to traffic regulations would allow!” the detective announced, barging into the dingy apartment and scattering evidence in swirls of litter and flies.

An old beat cop—the type who was doomed to be killed merely two days from his next day off and thirty minutes from a coffee break—sidled up and reported, “You’re too late. The paramedics already took the overdose to the hospital.”

Taking in the disheveled crime scene as if examining his archnemesis’s calling card, the detective muttered, “Let me tell you something about ‘the overdose’—her name is Jessica. Now you tell me something about the overdose—what caused it?”

After a long sip of coffee that raised both the suspense and his blood pressure, the beat cop replied, “A complex, multifaceted array of socioeconomic, biological, and psychological factors.”

“Damn!” the detective hissed. Massaging his scruffy chin and grinding his teeth, his thought process thereby making the sound of two librarians in a shushing match, he continued, “Any leads on identifying the culprit?”

“It was her family,” Jessica’s probation officer grunted, muscling his way out of the kitchen. “She was doing well in the rehab we had ordered her into. But, after completing the program, she returned to a home environment full of alcohol and prescription drug abuse, and that triggered a relapse.”

“Of course, family members are suspects in many investigations,” the detective noted.

“But perhaps not in the way you’re thinking,” Jessica’s psychiatrist said, coming in behind the P.O., her smile as big as a weekly pill-dispenser and her voice soothing the mood like a shot of antidepressants. “Her family might only be responsible for giving her the genetic predisposition toward addiction. Addiction is a mental disorder characterized by a malfunction in the brain’s reward system. People like Jessica may just be biologically predisposed to this behavior.”

“I forgot that criminal justice now comes in pill form,” the P.O. sneered. “Thanks, Debbie Downer.”

Waving away this disagreement and more flies, the detective pressed on. “What does Jessica’s therapist have to say about this?”

“She isn’t taking it very well,” the probation officer said. “During Jessica’s recent treatment, her therapist became emotionally involved and, when she heard about the relapse, began crying and binge-eating. We were trying to confiscate her bucket of fast-food-flavored ice cream, but threatening to throw her in jail wasn’t working.”

“Nothing that can’t be fixed by some prescription medications,” the psychiatrist added.

Not allowing the grindings of the system’s gears to distract his focus, the detective pressed on, “Were there any witnesses to the overdose?”

“Her three children were the ones who found her passed out on the bathroom floor,” the Children Services caseworker dictated into a smartphone, tap dancing her thumbs on the screen and strolling in from the family room.

“Well, what do the children believe the problem is?” the detective asked.

With a reply that seemed to be buffering, the caseworker faded in and out, “Well, according to the children’s social media posts, the problem is that ‘When we make Mommy cry, she puts needles in her arms and we have to go back to the Fosters.'”

The detective furrowed his brow. “The children refer to their foster placement as ‘the Fosters’?”

“Well, that is their name—Sandra and Richard Foster,” the caseworker droned, punctuating the statement with a rolling eye emoticon.

The therapist shouted from the kitchen, “Will all of you stop being so callous?” through sobs and mouthfuls of food.

In a sudden explosion, the P.O. shouted back, “Hey, can it!” in both the literal and figurative sense of the phrase, while the psychiatrist began writing him a prescription for mood stablizers and the caseworker broadcast the play-by-play to her online followers.

With his eyes narrowing to knife-like slits and his investigation broadening to global conspiracy, the detective considered that the first step in addressing these kinds of situations was admitting that you had a problem. His problem was that he was surrounded by neurotics who would have benefited more from four weeks of individual counseling than four years of community college training in how to dish it out.

“Alright everyone, listen up,” the detective announced, “I’m calling an intervention. Let’s all go around the room and describe how our co-workers’ personality issues have impeded our respective roles.”

Arching his crossed forearm muscles along with his eyebrows, the P.O. replied, “You mean like how you arrested twelve of my probationers last week while working two doubles and a triple?”

“Triples can’t even be ordered at Headquarters,” the jittery officer said. “Unless they’re in the cafeteria and involve espresso.”

“Wait a moment…” the detective attempted to cut in.

Chiming in like a notification on a news feed, the Children Services caseworker added, “Let’s not forget those probationers’ children I had to drag out of their lice-ridden homes.”

“…And all of the overworked law enforcement officers who needed medication for stress, anxiety, and high blood pressure,” the psychiatrist said sweetly, as if offering a spoonful of sugar.

“Wait, what’s going on here?” the detective demanded, his instincts now pointing strongly to conspiracy.

And, at that moment, Jessica walked into the room. “You were right, Detective—this is an intervention—but only for you,” she said with a sad and understanding smile. “We think you’re a workaholic.”

“You have a long road of inpatient treatment ahead of you,” the therapist came into the room, holding a box from the local bakery. “We got you a cake to show our support and wish you luck,” and then added, “I only ate a bit of it.”

“But I can’t go to some workaholic anti-work camp,” the detective stammered, “I have too much work to do!”

“Nonsense,” the Chief of Police declared, striding into the room. “You have built up plenty of something called ‘vacation time’ that will give you ample opportunity to learn just what exactly that is.” With one arm around the detective’s shoulders and the other indicating the smiling crowd around him, the Chief concluded, “Don’t let these people down. They are the closest thing to family that you have. Or rather, with the inordinate hours you spend away from home, I hope that’s the case.”

After hugs and cake all around, the detective approached Jessica. “It doesn’t take a nose that’s addicted to sniffing out the truth to figure out that you put this together.”

She smiled awkwardly. “I guess I learned a few things about positive social support while in rehab.”

“Is this revenge for my putting you there?” he asked with slit eyes that matched his grin.

“More repayment than payback,” she replied. “All of you work so hard to help me—it’s like your jobs come with a duty toward people like me. So, I think it’s my job, and the duty of people like me, to help you not work so hard.”

“Staying off drugs would’ve been help enough,” the detective deduced, “But, as a workaholic in recovery, I can appreciate going a bit overboard with your job.”

Nathan Witkin is a small-town criminal defense attorney, a notable innovator in the field of conflict resolution, and an MMA cage fighter. He lives in Marion, Ohio, where he cannot get a date to save his life.

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You’ve Been to this Place Before

You’ve been to this place before
where the poems don’t work anymore.
It’s desolate and empty, hidden
in the tangle of the forest, weeds and trees
grow through the floor planks and grey
gnarled trunks twist into the walls.

Go into the house.
Sit down at the kitchen table.
There will be a dirty, broken chair.
The roof will be collapsed.
The twittering glens and coves
are distilled into their own version of silence.
The reeds on muddy creek banks
rattle and buzz, shooting with light
that shifts as the creaking limbs move.
Cold water whispers over
smooth stones.

Look into the dust and the dirt beneath
a splintered plank in the floor.
There will be a flower there, spurting alive
in a flash of pink, like a hot coal.
It was a poem, all along,
the one to bring you back
to a sense of belonging.

Put down your pen on the table.
Leave the flower untouched.
The light will filter through the broken panes
in all the shades of holy stillness.

Lee Cole lives and works in Kentucky, and recently graduated from the University of Louisville, where he studied philosophy. When he’s not writing, he spends his time hiking, climbing, fishing and generally spending as much time outdoors as possible. He has had recent work appear in Full of Crow, egg and The Germ.

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Opaque

The gnarled branches you can feel,
you can run your fingers along the bark
of the elm and the paper birch,
and you can climb over fallen trees
and then softly on the snow,
across many hills,
with the forest dark on either side
and the sky pale green, washed out
by the moon

And in that silence, that deeper place of quiet,
a crow will caw occasionally, or the wind will move the branches,
but you can listen for a long time
and not hear anything.
In that light, the black trees are haunted
by a choir of ghosts,
and just when I think I’m beginning to see them,
appearing at the edge of the wood,
the snow begins to fall again
and everything is opaque.

Lee Cole lives and works in Kentucky, and recently graduated from the University of Louisville, where he studied philosophy. When he’s not writing, he spends his time hiking, climbing, fishing and generally spending as much time outdoors as possible. He has had recent work appear in Full of Crow, egg and The Germ.

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The Eye of the Sun

Again the night is dissolved
With ancient joy, the spirit reemerged
In a quiet mist of mornings resolved.
I walk out between the white pines and hissing birch
To smell the clean wind and taste the musty odor
Of decaying leaves and dry reeds.

Again I hear the song of chaos
Spilling into reservoirs of form and soul,
Dancing with the flickering moon, the loss,
I sit in the weeds to commune with crickets
And the fire waxes black, a halo warm
To encompass the unconcealed.

Again the day is created,
The creator unavailable, somewhere along a continuum,
Between the distant moments, unrelated,
I rise with the lilies and the daffodils, the garden dark
Eclipsed by the shadow, the eye of the sun
Opens, trembling with awe.

Lee Cole lives and works in Kentucky, and recently graduated from the University of Louisville, where he studied philosophy. When he’s not writing, he spends his time hiking, climbing, fishing and generally spending as much time outdoors as possible. He has had recent work appear in Full of Crow, egg and The Germ.

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