Loose End

With the crash of a hard drive, his world
was destroyed. In the hall mirror, he saw
the field mice eating their way into a plastic bag.

With the crash of a bank, his world
was destroyed. In the hall mirror, he saw
the field mice climbing into an open box of tinsel.

With the crash of a car, his world was
destroyed. In the hall mirror, he saw
the field mice gnawing the electrical insulation.

Then his wedding photo was elbowed off the mantel.
The crash of the glass woke him. He bought
a dozen mousetraps to address the infestation.

In the hall mirror, he saw his wife on her knees
nibbling at the soft cheese of meaning.

This is a reprint of work originally published in OF ZOOS.

Bill Yarrow is the author of Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012), and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary Magazine, DIAGRAM, FRiGG, Uno Kudo, Gargoyle, and PANK Magazine. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College.

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One Sick, Two Sick, Red Sick, Blue Sick

                                    I found a diseased fish
                        wedged between
            some boulders
near the pier
            I pulled it out
                        its left white eye
                                    well beyond compassion
            its shrunken shank
nolo contendere
                                    I held it in my hands
                        as if it were a gift
                                    from a maniac
                                                            I cut it in half
                                                with a delicate knife
                                    I lifted the skin
                        I peeled it back
                                                I peered under
and all was…

                        sarcoma sarcoma
            melanoma               melanoma
carcinoma                                       carcinoma
            sarco más               mela no más
                        carci no más
                                                sarcoma sarcoma
                                    melanoma               melanoma
                        carcinoma                                       carcinoma
                                    sarco más               mela no más
                                                carci no más
                        sarcoma sarcoma
            melanoma               melanoma
carcinoma                                       carcinoma
            sarco más               mela no más
                        carci no más

                                    I dropped it
                        It bubbled
            stubbornly
among the rocks

This is a reprint of work originally published in Exact Change Only.

Bill Yarrow is the author of Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012), and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary Magazine, DIAGRAM, FRiGG, Uno Kudo, Gargoyle, and PANK Magazine. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College.

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Ajloun Castle

You, my little cat, are brisk and fluid
I, like an owl, am stiff and staid
You clambered up the high rocks and held out your arms
The wind in a swoosh came up behind you

Incredulous, I watched you fall

You did not see me looking
as you stood placid, impassive
looking out over the cardamom hills
but then the wind mistook your arms for wings

and, helpless, I watched you fall

Horrified, I watched you fall
through the future and into the past,
past your family, past your accolades,
past your handsome penchant for reconciliation

into the universal solvent of your confidence

I saw you dashed upon low stones!
I saw you bounce into the sea!
I saw you sink into inky velvet!

My tragedy is that my imagination
pictures only the disaster

but you see only soaring
and that is your inviolable gift

Bill Yarrow is the author of Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012), and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary Magazine, DIAGRAM, FRiGG, Uno Kudo, Gargoyle, and PANK Magazine. He is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College.

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Rudderless

I didn’t read until my twenties
      not really—
      I didn’t know to drink

words like a broth. Telling myself
      I didn’t have time, I was too
      busy slaying invisible

armies with chestnut branches.
      By sixteen, branches had dwindled to
      pencils—I wrote before I read,

toying with sails before
      I had lumber, constructing galleons with
      unstable decks. These feckless

skeletons collapsed, and I
      sat surrounded in the hull
      alone with words.

Ian C. Williams is a poet often caught wearing coffee, drinking tweed, and confusing common verbs. His work has been published in Yorick Magazine, The Gap-Toothed Madness, and Dirty Chai, among others. He received the 2014 Florence Kahn Memorial Award from the NFSPS for his chapbook House of Bones. He lives with his wife in West Virginia, where he is working on a full-length project.

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Forestry

“When Geppetto saw those two wooden eyes looking at him, he did not like it at all, and he said angrily, ‘Naughty wooden eyes, why are you staring at me?’
But no one answered.”

Trees don’t speak, not in
whispers, not in their limbs—
long ago their lips grew together.
Bark blankets them.

The boy hasn’t said anything
the whole drive home. He hasn’t
since this morning.

His therapist said trees don’t speak,
not in whispers, not in their limbs—
she said the wind moves
limbs, coaxes the whispers through
sealed lips.

She said to be the wind.

Ian C. Williams is a poet often caught wearing coffee, drinking tweed, and confusing common verbs. His work has been published in Yorick Magazine, The Gap-Toothed Madness, and Dirty Chai, among others. He received the 2014 Florence Kahn Memorial Award from the NFSPS for his chapbook House of Bones. He lives with his wife in West Virginia, where he is working on a full-length project.

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The Unspeakable Thing

There are things you can do to pass the time as you build up the courage to walk up to the Coward’s front stoop and ring the bell with the piece tucked neatly in the waistband behind your back as all the old movies suggest. You can sit quietly in your car and create a cigarette ashpile on your lap. You can listen to cicadas drone and record the cacophony on your phone, play it back real slow so they all sound like they’re yelling for the rest of their lives, which are usually short for insects. You can think some more about The Unspeakable Thing that he did to you that similar summer day all those years back and smell the mud that went up your nose as he pressed your face against same, as the feeling went out of your hands, then wrists, then the Other Place, and the nondescript backyard’s lawn’s grass blades waved back and forth rhythmically to the force of his thrusts. You can ponder the etymology of a word like “unspeakable”–an innocuous word, and one you think you could get to the root of if you really wanted to.

You could instead use the human-specific gift of foresight you’ve been given as a member of the species and think of all the possible scenarios that might go down when you march right on up to that stoop and try to force your bladder to do things against its will as the Coward did to you for very different reasons all those years ago, try not to pee and negate the whole thing when he finally answers the door, when you’ll make just the right scowl of vengeance, the one you’ve been practicing in the mirror all week and let the weight of what’s about to happen really sink in for him before equipping the piece and using it on him. But the trick, you realize, is to use it at just the right moment so as to ensure that his last human thoughts will be on the unimaginable error of his ways and not on something like how funny his show was before he had to get up and answer the door. You can’t wait too long, either–you wouldn’t want him praying for forgiveness or actually asking it or anything like that. It’s all about timing. You know that.

It occurs to you that relieving yourself might be unavoidable, if not desirable for what needs to be done. Considering you unintentionally relieved yourself after he relieved himself in a very different way inside of you, the reaction might be a Pavlovian one, and could very well be activated the second you see his face again. But normal people don’t piss their pants. Crazy people do. And if he thinks you’re crazy, he’ll be scared. Again with the whole last thoughts thing.

You consider what the headline might be for something like this. Something involving “outrage as,” most likely, like: “OUTRAGE AS GUNNED-DOWN VETERAN FIGHTS FOR LIFE,” “OUTRAGE AS VET SHOOTER REMAINS ON THE RUN,” “OUTRAGE AS DES PLAINES MOURNS ITS HOMETOWN HERO,” etc. The anger you feel at the inevitable headline-related injustice is useful. It’s just what you needed, frankly, and so you get out of the car and march right on up to that stoop and let your bladder know that it can do just about whatever it wants right about now. And you ring the doorbell, which sounds lovely. And you wait patiently. And you don’t hear any prior door-approaching footsteps, which is odd, but the door awkwardly jars open a couple inches, then another couple as the Coward holds the door with one hand and struggles to wheel backward in his chair with the other. And you find yourself unintentionally helping him open his door to you, to the man he raped all those years ago when the man was a boy, to the man who will now end his life just as soon as suitable last thoughts can be assured.

And you try on the practiced scowl and stand there ominously once the door’s all the way open and propped against his chair’s right front wheel, and the bladder lets go in Pavlovian fashion just as you thought it would, and he sees the pee stain right away with the eye that wasn’t blown away by the IED, can’t smell it with a nose that is no longer on his face, and has trouble speaking about it with lips that have been grafted from ass flesh, but you come to understand that he has a change of pants inside if you needed them, and he understands if you don’t want them.

You listen to the cicadas droning their insectal/coital chatter. To the cars Dopplering past each other far away on busy streets. You feel the urine warm first your genitals, then your thighs, then trace ticklish lines down both legs. The piece feels unnaturally cold against the skin of your back, its muzzle threatening and grazing the Other Place.

Your head is very, very hot.

And you march right on inside, and will you bwait juss a second while I bit the pants he asks against the grafted ass flesh, and you will, and you close the door more so others won’t have to see the squalor of his house than the growing stain in your pants. And replacement pants have been fetched, and they’ll do you a whole hell of a lot better than they’ll do him with his atrophied legs and his left foot missing in action.

And he points out the bathroom for changing, or baffrum as his mangled lips render it, and you change right there in front of him instead. You let him see the body he had once, the body you now have. And the piece falls from your waistband, and you leave it lying there on the floor.

Blease juss do it, he says.

But you don’t do it.

You leave.

Nicholas Olson is a fiction/screen writer with a BA in Cinema Art + Science from Columbia College Chicago. A triple finalist in the 2013 Written Image Screenwriting Competition, he currently resides in the Chicagoland area where he’s crafting a novel and wrangling a cat. He has work published or forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions, The Open End, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be stalked at http://nicksfics.com.

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Har-de-har-har

Pop’s belt was on a pendular swing like so many times before and almost lilting and dragging the air where JT could nearly see the beer breath coming out in wisps and drags the same as cigarette Os that Pop would make and laugh at and say oh Jay come here you know you wanna try and don’t look at me like that I’m your father and JT would fix himself up for fighting against the cry because to cry was to get hit and to watch the pendulum was much better so he kept his eyes just the same on the track back and forth this way and that as Pop gave him A Talking To and the topics blew out like the beer breath and smoke would and hung there on words left unsaid until tonight because tonight Pop would go too far and tonight JT would stay in for the last time and tonight things were going to change like so many jingled pockets in childhood days with socks to the stomach and not the kind you put on feet and har-de-har-har right JT that was a good one and stop crying if you tell your mom I’ll fucking kill you and that’s a good one too huh har-de-har-har only this time there wasn’t any of the laughter and this time JT was almost begging for a couple socks to the stomach because this time the look in Pop’s eyes was like scalding water poured slowly over bubbling skin until the whole pot drained dry because this time the belt would be the least of JT’s worries and there wasn’t a way out Pop was in his room with shirt on the floor and gut hanging out pendulously and hair around the gut gathering in wisps and draws but not smokelike this time only in tangled growth that suggested brambles and thorns and all the rest and so Pop loomed there in the doorway with his beer breath and he was lighting another cig and saying hey you know how they brand cattle on the ranch and the har-de-har-har was about to come and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what the har-de-har-har would bring and there was no way out but the window and it caught in the winter time always caught and gave onto a twenty-foot drop which even with the snow to break the fall would no doubt break a bone or two and give Pop enough time even with the bramble-covered gut to make his way downstairs and outside with pendulating belt in hand so he could give another Talking To and maybe wait until he got JT back inside to really let the blood flow so JT wasn’t exactly in his head when Pop came trundling over with the gut swaying this way and that and the beer breath already a suffocating cloud now like its own sort of presence in the room and wafting and breathing of its own accord and like entirely separate from this man if you could call him that who JT called Pop and Pop had one of those fever grins on that he got after working through a twenty-four pack with the cans all uniformly crunched to wafer-size against skull that was thick and flat and pockmarked from God knows what and JT could smell the piss now too and knew that the piss was somehow worse because it was guilt and any guilt was enough for Pop and if it was enough for Pop then a Talking To was the least of his problems right here in his very own personal bedroom on his very own personal bed with his Pop looming large in the nighttime shadow and the old nightlight still flickering from days gone by in childhood when the belt was the worst of it and he could still get away somehow always get away and hear the boom come down from the stairs and in the bathroom when Pop would say he needed to see him and now but JT would always hide away in small clever places that Pop could never quite find but those days were gone now and JT saw them flickering out with the nightlight and he glanced for the window which wasn’t too bright Pop would say wasn’t too bright at all and JT could only run for the window then with his feet smacking placidly on wood that gave in spots and creaked in ways that used to give away nights spent up and preparing for the escape that never came because he always stayed until tonight always stayed and thought he always would and the window caught just as he thought it would and Pop was bellowing and closing and the belt was breaking the sound barrier in little claps that licked at the air behind JT and his fist was through the window and the glass gave way in splintered little chips that erased themselves in snow twenty feet below and the belt was cracking backflesh as he punched the rest of the pane and fought the pain in little wired grips and sent eyes skybound and not down because you can’t look down isn’t that what they say in all the movies and the snow’s flakes were each the size of mountains as he fell and the gut was receding there in the distance and its brambles were lost and far away and the snow was miles beneath him miles beneath and it could kill him for all he cared could kill him and he’d be happy because he made his stand so har-de-har-har.

Nicholas Olson is a fiction/screen writer with a BA in Cinema Art + Science from Columbia College Chicago. A triple finalist in the 2013 Written Image Screenwriting Competition, he currently resides in the Chicagoland area where he’s crafting a novel and wrangling a cat. He has work published or forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions, The Open End, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be stalked at http://nicksfics.com.

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