Ernest Thayer – CASEY AT THE BAT

Standard

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair.
The rest Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast; They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!” But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

 a danse macabre classique supplémentaire

image

Kenneth Kesner – FIVE POEMS

Standard

angle of next

so if you sense something like me falling
and the one in the air don’t mind
you’ll come to trace seconds in fault
of nothing at all left beside senses
already before you turn to voice
stun many here among us staggered
in reach of wonder

red silent

destiny of more than alone
only mine will never leave us
within this season a warning
of innocence some just lost
time ago in octave all too fast
to number tides tie them altogether

laugh irony

hear

that time’s wanting where left off
of frequent and near set conscious to
sun so shallow to board will it yearn if
undone a sum of shadow you could
could touch you all those close
contouring colors one facing legacy
profound day meridian of verse

torn in a circle

as strangers of cobalt nightin painters the rest of livingyou’ll see us together sloweror is this another questionwithin measured complexity somewhere else endlesslyclose and chosen onlyor hands finding her bodyspeaks past the so manycorners of i can’t live forever

when she looks on and on

feel I’m drifting all ways now
and like you seem more than same
could we remain departing
memoirs left touched from exile
so you could defer visions
bend the pale noon elation
for destiny to silence
contents of our last version
if you’re there enough to tell
down by the breeze drawn by waves

——————-
Kenneth Kesner lives and works in East Asia, where he’s held several academic appointments.  Some recent poems may be found in Decanto, Ginosko, ken*again, Line Zero, Retort Magazine and Ygdrasil

——————

image

—————-

image

Kenneth Jobe – SILENCE, PLEASE

Standard


I sit at my large oak desk in silence. The only sound is the rhythmic
timekeeping of the grandfather clock to my left. In front of me is a tumbler of scotch which I am too afraid to drink. To pick it up and take a sip, soothing as it may be to my shaken nerves, would mean making a sound. I cannot risk it.

At first I told myself the noises I had been hearing over the past month were merely my imagination; the inevitable results of a tired, overworked mind. Then I became convinced the knocks and rattles about the house were surely nothing more than the old domicile settling on its foundation; the whispers and moans merely wind whistling through the gaps and cracks of the old, warped door and window frames.

But then, moments ago as I poured my scotch, I heard her. Clear as the thoughts in my own head.

Stephen…

My name, called by the voice of my wife – my dear sweet Analiz, who expired at the breakfast table four short weeks ago. Could it be?

I paused, drink in hand, and cocked my head to listen. Hearing nothing, I tried to convince myself I was indeed having a fatigue-induced hallucination. I walked to the desk, and as I eased the weight of my frame into my chair I heard her again.

Stephen…

Her voice was louder and clearer this time – I was certain now, despite the original doubting of my dulled senses.

I swiveled around in my chair to find the room as empty as when I sat down. My heartbeat sped to a gallop and a smothering warmth washed over me as I felt a presence in the room my eyes couldn’t see.

I turned back to the desk to set down my drink, and as the glass touched the oak desktop I heard her once more.

I know…

It is just as I feared. My Analiz has indeed come back, and in her postmortem consciousness realized that her coffee that fateful morning a month ago contained a lethal dose of strychnine. With every sound I make she inches closer to enveloping me in her wretched stench of death, determined to drag me along as accompaniment on her journey to the afterlife.

I fear that if she manages to seize my soul we may not share the same destination; she is bound to go one way, while I believe I will most certainly go the other.

I now sit frozen with fear. Frigid air swirls all around me; she is circling me like a predator around its prey, waiting to pounce. My heart pounds in my chest and my breath grows shallow. Afraid my rapid breathing may be all the sound needed to cue her attack, I draw in as much air as possible and hold it, in the hopes that the silence will drive her back to the everlasting limbo from which she came.

I sit, I wait, and I pray to God for her to be gone. Otherwise the next breath I take is certain to also be my last.
——————-
Kenneth Jobe is a Native Californian currently living in the American Midwest with his wife and their dog. He is the author of several short stories and novellas in the suspense, thriller, and horror genres, and is currently working on his debut novel.
——————-
image

Bruce D. Price – FOUR POEM POEMS

Standard

Unexplored POEM

In the jungle of this poem
rainbows spring from your gaudy body,
and orchids, angry and artful,
scream into flame.

Through the vines of your tenacious desire
swing blind monkeys, screeching
Insults and loathsome truths
you shudder to hear.

Crocs wait
in the sullen pools of this poem,
always friendly to your hot flesh;
and piranhas as quick as your fearful eyes
flick up to your fancies
and leave not even bone.

In this poem’s green shadows
agile killers study your silhouette
against a wavering sun.
Through a haze of heat and sweat
you struggle on, proud to have
discovered a poem to die in.

QUICKIE POEM

Let’s do it now,
don’t think so much,
quick, before someone
notices, read me,
feel me, right here,
oh, my God….don’t stop,
I’m going to scream….
Whew, Jesus….Now didn’t that
feel good? Want to do it
again?

DREAM POEM

this poem is a dream
you wish to escape

if only you would awake
you could forget this poem

words pursue you through
the white pages of this dream

the voices you hear have
been spoken by this poem

people reach out, they live
here, they dream of you

now you smile, eager to dream
on, but the poem is fa d i n g

THIS POEM IS TOUGHER THAN YOU ARE

This poem has no manners
and less conscience. Kneecaps
a specialty.

You don’t want to meet
this poem in a dark alley.
You may not see the face
but you won’t forget the laugh.

Whadaya say to a 300 pound poem?
“Excuse me, I was just leaving.
No, no…I was not reading you…”

Relax! Maybe this poem will
let you live another day.
Maybe not.

Die, fool.

——————————————–
Bruce Deitrick Price is the author of five books, an artist, poet, and education reformer. He likes to claim that his “Theoryland” is the best long poem in contemporary literature.
——————————————–
image

Brittani Schulist – GRIM SKIES

Standard

Hatred and betrayal fill her cloudy skies,
Where it pours due to deep despise,
She braves her own storm alone.
In class she’s as quiet as can be,
Fakes a smile so you will never see,
Everything going on underneath.
The putrid hate nobody would believe,
Sadly conceiving, hardly breathing,
That everything is just fine,
Broken inside, no-one will ever find,
Her soul lurks in the dark,
Waiting for someone to spark,
A feeling nobody else could,
But who’d care about someone like me?
Her heart aches with sorrow,
That just maybe tomorrow,
She won’t awake another day.
But on the outside she’s calm and clean.
Her darkest hour turns to black,
As everyone’s knives cut into her back,
The real faces never tend to surface,
Yet they change at the slightest instance.
The scolding looks, they never stop,
Until the time someone calls the cops,
To come to confusion of her limp body,
Turn’s heads as someone says
There she is, are we the reason of her own deathbed? Now who’s sorry?
——————————————-
Brittani Schulist enjoys singing and dancing, yet plans to become a Special FX makeup artist in the future. That way she can prove that anything is possible to create with your imagination. She expresses herself through twisted and weird ways, which also describes her fashion sense.
—————————————————————
image

Jeb Burt – THE DOGS

Standard

In various sizes and hues they came, coats darkened by flood—small fat ones buoyant cocktail weenies, long thin ones frail-looking as estuarial birds, and great ones, biblical beasts, wood barrels strapped at their chins. My girlfriend said these were saints but I didn’t see what she meant until I saw, silhouetted on rooftops, dogs howling at clouds as though against some necromancer’s spell as canines swirled by in the river in the street, heads desperately erect from its surface.

Curling on the couch, we watched water streak the glass and dogs spin through the night. These dogs were being drowned by forces beyond our control, martyred to things unseen.

You should know: my girlfriend is somnolescent. When she sleeps she’s dead as rock. Only water can wake her. Alarm clocks don’t work, nor thunder and lightning.

And: I love her.

Enraptured by rivulets on the glass and the silver sound of the river through the street, we gave ourselves over to our own damp pastime. When I woke she was gone. Clothes on the floor in mock flight: pants legs in mid-sprint fold toward the door, and the arms of her cream blouse in a Y of fright as if, caught by some horror, she combusted into the floor.

Next morning, the investigating detectives shook their heads and laughed. Twins but for their hair—one had none, the other a lot—the same smashed bulldog face hung from the fronts of their heads like trashed  masquerade masks.

“Women, and people, don’t vanish into thin air,” the bald one grunted, chewing a hairpin. I didn’t notice the pin when they came in, wondered if it was my girlfriend’s. Rooting through our belongings, drawers, closets and used-underwear hamper (the bald one lingered long in nipping pungency, hunting some ripe clue), they found nothing. They upturned my silk screener and surf apparel forging equipment, thinking them components of some elaborate clothing press. (Aquasilver and Hog Dog ponchos sold the best, talismans from the days of protective ozone and uranium-free ocean.) “And if they do, they leave something.”

I nodded to the clothes on the floor. “She left those. She was wearing them when she vanished.”

“You sound so sure, Ace. Why?”

“Would she leave naked?”

“All those silk asswraps in the closet are yours?”

The detective with hair didn’t laugh so much as grin by violent slurps, hocked pink thrilled snot into my sink. “Too skinny for those skirts. Look at his little legs.”

They looked at my legs. I crossed them and leaned against the hall doorframe. “I went through her clothes,” I said carefully. “None missing.”

The hairy detective’s eyebrows arched in delight: “You mean you know your girlfriend’s wardrobe by heart?”

I turned to the bald one, now seeming more of an ally if because slightly less of a dick. “The door was bolted from inside. Windows locked.”

A laugh of amused condescension came from his haired partner.

“So: she just disappeared,” the bald detective said.

“Another possibility?”

Scrunching his eyes, he put balled fist to chin, stared at the floor for a minute: “You got a cellar door?”

“It’s an apartment. No.”

“What do you mean, ‘No.’” He thrust an enormous knuckle to my breastbone. He pushed me to the couch, where I had mingled and wrangled with my girlfriend the night before, and shoved me down. “You hiding something?”

“Of course not.”

“Billy,” the bald one said. “Keep an eye on this slick ricket. I’m checking exit-entrance contingencies.”

I heard him in the bedroom, hallway and bathroom kicking things he examined five minutes earlier. Glass shattered, my hatchet fin trophy (imitation).

Billy, the detective with hair, walked to the window. Pale light through storm clouds glazed his face. Not staring out so much as in, as if viewing a diorama of a farcical disaster scenario, he passively scanned the waterlogged avenue. Red water braided through the gutter, caressing the swollen and fissured asphalt. “No trace of the dogs,” he said quietly, touching pinky knuckle to the glass. “It’s like they never were.”

I said nothing, listening to the hiss and squeal of the showerhead turned on in my bathroom, surely without the curtain drawn. Medicine cabinet slammed open, bottles and razors jittered onto tile, more shattering glass (the drinking glass in which I soaked my toothbrush in a tincture of bleach and distilled H2O). And then, after a curiously long silence and a zipper’s growl, the roar of a column of urine into my toilet, the swish and sizzle of the stream aimed around the bowl and through the center pool and beyond the rim. Toilet flushing. The bathroom door slammed open then closed. The bald detective sauntered into the kitchen, a tiny stove and sink set on parquet in the living room. Instead of washing his hands, he wiped them on the stove mittens. He smeared a German roach along the rim of the sink with his palm, wiped it on the stove mittens too. Then he washed his hands in the sink, dried them on wrinkled slacks.

“Lavish place you got here,” he observed. “You and your girl grease each other into that bed?”

“It’s small,” I said. “But also cheap.”

“With a view of money like that,” he said, “no wonder she left.”

“Vanished.”

“One word for it. Poof,” he said, hand blooming open in the air.

“She didn’t leave me.” They grinned, and outside my window a thick red rain battered the concrete and leaves of the potted trees along the street. After a silence, and a hard rattle-burst of drops against the glass, the roof dogs again set to howling. “She disappeared, and if you can’t figure how,” I said, “I’ll have to hire someone who can.”

My bold indignation shriveled in their stares.

The bald one turned to the window. “Billy,” he said to his partner. “What do you think of these acid rain squalls? More and more unpredictable, huh?”

They exchanged encrypted glances. “Violent and unpredictable,” Billy said, throwing me a sidelong glare. “Can’t tell when they’re gonna hit. Crazy. And unpredictable. They make people do things, you know, Ron. The crime rate goes through the roof this time a’ year. Acid goes to people’s heads. Family kill each other. Lovers kill each other. Then, when they regain their senses, they try to cover it up.”

They watched me.

“Some,” Billy went on, “don’t even realize they murdered someone. The acid fumes force them to forget. Sometimes only we can serve as memory-jumpers, by collecting evidence and showing it to them. In a court of law.”

Ron, the bald one, grunted. “It’s a crying shame.”

I crossed my legs. Uncrossed them. “Where could all those dogs have gone?”

Billy said: “The same place those missing family members go— husbands, mothers, girlfriends.”

“Brothers.”

“Daughters.”

“Family friends. Grandmas.”

“Dogs.”

I waited for them to tell me.

“Well?” I said.

“You don’t know?”

“Why would I know?”

“Why would he know,” Ron asked Billy. “Huh? Why would he know?”

“Don’t know,” Billy said. “Maybe he’s too smart to know. Maybe he isn’t.”

They looked through the suddenly calm air to two tired silos along the horizon, beyond the end of the boulevard that led past my apartment to the bay. The silos marked the western edge of town and the beginning of the turbid, cold ocean and a stretch of dunes pregnant with outmoded landmines.

“I’ll tell you where they are,” Ron told me: “Under investigation. Like you.”

Billy, in a contemplative mood, freed from the repartee, stood staring out the glass. “What did you and your girlfriend see through this window?”

“Dogs,” I said, “floating.”

“Of course,” he nodded. “And you sat with her, here, and watched—” he moved his hand slowly, palm down, from one side of the window to the other, a dog floating calmly by.

“Yes—”

“And touched her. Felt her—”

“What’s that have to do with—”

“Answer the question,” Ron hissed. He rooted casually through the freezer. Closing it, he grabbed a broom from the corner. He thrust its handle-tip to the floor, and into the cabinets over the sink, a sadistic dentist probing for caries to my nerve.

“Yes,” I said to Billy. “I touched her.”

“Here,” Billy said, blessing.

“There.”

Billy nodded with slow savor, as if rolling the sole clue he needed along his tongue. “So strange,” he said, staring out the glass, “the way people touch each other. Magnetic fields, squids. Here we are, we’ve touched you, and it’ll affect you, but we don’t know how yet. Do we? Did you love her?”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean?” Billy asked Ron.

“What does he mean?” Ron stabbed the broom through the back plaster of a cabinet. He stared at me. “He means, when you greased her into that bed, did you grease any parts especially tender, he means.”

Ron, seeing no one would laugh, roved the broom through the cabinets explosively, tore cans and foodstuffs onto the parquet.

Billy moved to my desk. Lifting a small snow globe from the papers, he peered into its divided hemispheres, one a tableaux of Santa kneeled amid a group of jubilant styrene children, the other a nightscape of burnt homes and skeleton-strewn stone. Billy grinned at Santa Claus and shook the globe to make it snow. Through swirling motes of cellophane he noticed the bone-decorated side.

He looked at me. “What the fuck is this?”

“Where could those dogs have gone?” I said quickly.

Billy cradled the paperweight like he might thrust it through my eye. “What’s the idea?”

“Man’s Faces, I guess.” The globe said so itself, a plaque at the base.

“A sick joke?”

“I think it’s a gimmick.”

Ron tore the last cabinet door from its hinges and tossed it on the cans on the parquet, yawned. “No alternative entrances in cabinets or floor,” he said. He speared the broom into the ceiling. Washes of dust came from the plaster. He announced officiously, “No contingencies in roof,” snapping the broom on his knee.

Billy, who’d been quietly examining me, said, “You’re the bastard who killed those dogs.”

“What?”

“Dogs,” he said.

“They were killed?”

“What do you think ‘happened?’ God’s vengeance? Please,” he said. “It’s bastards like you that make this world hell.”

“What?” I said.

“The flood was your fault,” Billy said.

“How could I have caused the flood? I’m a normal man.”

Billy thinned his eyes. “Sabotage.”

“Of what?”

He stepped forward. “You tell me.”

“No,” I said. “I mean,” I said, “I have no idea.”

Watching my face, he put the globe to my nose. “Where’s the good?”

It shattered against the wall; glass and styrene children’s parts strewed through the room.

“Where’s the good in a flood? Or in my girlfriend vanishing?” I shouted. “Did I cause that?”

“You confess?”

“I profess, gentleman, you’re the brightest radiation twins I ever met.”

Billy lunged but his partner, there anyway, swung the handle of the broom into my eye.

__

They left in the early afternoon. The streets were dry. They left me with their cards, in the sides of my mouth, as I fought from the bedframe they’d tied me to with her clothes. As they left they told me they’d get her abductor—who was me. A matter of compiling the evidence or, they said, making time to fake it. “Don’t worry, Ace. We’ll solve your case.”

They left me with her pants—they took her blouses, sandals to their wives. I wore her pants around my neck and stared through the glass, listening to the silence that follows rain.

I heard a howl. On the building across the street a dog, tall and black, watched me. It lashed its tail against the sky, crying accusations, each slowly falling to the broken street past my closed window.
———————————-
Jeb Burt lives in New York. His work has been published in the Lilies and Cannonballs Review and he has had plays produced at Columbia University.
———————————-
image