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Shook Lit Fall 2019 Issue

rain splashing on a cement wall

X's for Eyes

Howie Good

1

Years ago we loved life so much, everything in the world, including the air. The moral should be obvious. It’s big enough to be seen among the cacophony of windows. I’m just wondering what comes next, if we’ll only be able to view nature in assigned locations. You’ll go and sit in a dark room, surrounded by strangers. When you scream, only half of the people will understand.

2

I fell asleep to the rat-tat-tat of rain and dreamed I could breathe underwater. The grieving came later, when we learned there could be such a thing as too much sunshine. Animal rescuers cut open a whale’s belly on the beach and found coins and plastic water bottles inside. Maybe it was a cry for help, but maybe not. People were saying it was only a matter of time before those little white birds returned to pick clean the teeth of crocodiles. Meanwhile, the rain would be represented by a succession of broken lines, and death by x’s for eyes.

3

You arrive with 100 gallons of red paint, and all these people are thinking, “Oh my God,” while you work out the next steps that need to be taken. It kind of gives you something to do with your sadness. You serve an idea that doesn’t belong to you. There’s no way you can just stop. You’ve got to keep accelerating. The invisible world is teetering between becoming and dying, and it can go in either direction at any moment. So the answer is “no” should anyone happen to ask if every ray of light comes back to us.

bare white trees

The Rent

John Grey

I’m still vinyl.
The needle hums.
The adagio – falling bricks –
tossed pillows – a pile of mulch.

Bicycle tires keep deflating,
chain-smoke billows from the chimney,
branches from a dead oak
slam against the window,
clothes find the one place in my room
where it’s impossible to retrieve them.

Flowers not yet buds,
(just melodies drawing me back).
Forgive my degrading tendencies.
from now, scrim floats
across the bed at night, then never again.

I am listening to Orff.
I imagine him trapped in his own music.
I tried to write a cantata
But nothing ever came together
like this wood floors' grainy seams.

Meanwhile, in familiar places, sprout mushrooms,
like all things they came into their time that’s all –
my landlord intervenes with trick language regarding rent
and the white light of rising strings stuck on repeat.

I tell him
the soles of my shoes
are useless on the surface of water
but I’d like his permission to try.
He reaches out to save me from drowning,
though it’s my wallet he grabs
and it’s as empty as my curses at the world.

I, of course, am expecting a windfall any day now.
With any luck, it will spread across his lawn.
That will buy me months in his crummy two by four.

There was a man once who remarked
how petals never fell through that hole in the roof.
But rain did.
Likewise the crumbling chimney.
I revert to silence only to shout again
while he turns red and white as a pizza place table cloth.

Crescendo - I fill a vase for flowers.
Tomorrow, it’ll be a chainsaw.
The next, sledgehammers.


dilapidated floorboards covered in snow

comedians in cells getting beaten

Michael Prihoda

imagine, instead of Mohamedou, my name were Kevin James. a before and after
photo that spells WASP in both frames.
          instead, i’m the punchline of a joke your president likes to tell
          as bedtime story to a nation sponging propaganda
                    off sweating
                    foreheads.


A Town Called Heartbreak

Howie Good


In the third week of the war, she heard a strange sound and stepped out onto the terrace of her house. She was killed instantly by a stray bullet. I haven’t slept too well since then. Opinion leaders keep shouting, “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” That’s a rather antiquated and narrow notion of conflict. A Molotov cocktail also poses a risk to the person who throws it. I think this is how I will end – disappearing in a blur. If you want reality, just go and stand there. You’ll see it. It’s there. Life is full of pictures we didn’t take.

wooden platform with graffiti

American dream, part 1

Michael Prihoda

the Statue of
Liberty

is an
oyster.

you must
not have

the right
knife.

Sam Cooke Enters Heaven

Howie Good


You were surrounded by angels, balls of light, not quite as big as a volleyball, moving, breathing, shining, all different colors, and three of the angels came up to you, and one said in a small voice: “We’ll have fun every day. We’ll go on picnics in the hills and spend the whole night there. We’ll bring musicians and instruments with us, and no one will ask why you were killed.” It didn’t really matter. Starving deer were already wandering the streets in search of food, and the wind smelled like a bonfire. Something was about to become something else.

American dream, part 2

Michael Prihoda

did you know
the Statue 

of Liberty
was brown? 

not this money-
grubbed 

oxidation. would
things 

have turned
out better 

if they made
a Lehman Bros. 

video game?
squash 

those goombas,
it’s not anyone 

who can see
the foot that’s 

too big
to fail 

is stomping
average human beings. 

call them
mushrooms, 

you know,
fungi, 

the last dick
to leave 

the party. he
doesn’t 

even come down
with a hangover. 

spotted towhee bird digging in fall leaves

I am the hero

Claire Gagnon


I
am the hero                             
I
am the hero that will save the world
from mad scientists bent on domination
from nightmares created by the minds of lost, twisted children
from evil for evil’s sake
I
generation after generation
listen to their woes
settle their scores
search for everything they’ve ever lost
to find each of them a small portion of happiness 
in this uncaring program made of ones and zeros
I
only get stronger 
with each failure leading to victory
never giving up
where others have failed before me
slicing through boss after corrupt boss
wave after unholy wave
facing the pain of death after
one wrong step
one wrong choice
I
never tire from my duties
even death cannot keep me 
from fulfilling my destiny
so it was foretold
so it shall be
even after the screen fades to black
and haunting notes of disappointment 
fill the ink-sky to reveal those dreaded words
Game Over
I
will always be here
waiting to continue again
I
The Hero


You 
are just one speck in a mass of millions

who pushed the start button

in her defense

Douglas Hill

Did you read her letters
about the garden? Not yet?
You should; they shed
considerable light
upon her state of mind
in the months leading up to
the whole nasty business.

In May, third week,
she wrote about her garden,
and it’s quite telling.
She can’t wait for the carrots
to come along;
she wants to pull them
out of the ground and
lick them clean,
sharpen them
she says,
then use them for something
that frightens her:
swords maybe in a desperate
stand that nobody wants,
least of all she.

I hear them
the evil ones
they whisper behind the trees
at night around the house
they are coming,
she says, underlining the word
with force that breaks the lead.
She has tried to wipe away
the tiny spray of graphite
from the page:
smeared fingerprints bloom
down the side of the page.

Her final words
almost indecipherable:
they have no eyes
but see me better
in the dark
the only hope
she scribbles over the word
and writes chance
is to chop off their wings

investigators found the note
in the crib inside a cornhusk baby
shaped by multiple twisted
roots and braided strips of basswood,
surrounded by shards of broken carrots.

field of tall dried grass

Contributors

Howie Good

Howie Good is the author most recently of "Stick Figure Opera" from Cajun Mutt Press, "What It Is and How to Use It" from Grey Book Press, and "Spooky Action at a Distance" from Analog Submission Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost and teaches at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

John Grey

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Qwerty, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review, and failbetter.

Michael Prihoda

Michael Prihoda lives in central Indiana. He is the founding editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine and small press. His work has received nominations for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology and he is the author of nine poetry collections, most recently Out of the Sky (Hester Glock, 2019). He tweets @michaelprihoda.

Claire Gagnon

An architect that likes the more creative side to things. An ARTkitect, if you will. On Instagram @sophyre.creates

Douglas Hill

Douglas Hill is a Canadian octogenarian who has posted over a thousand of his poems on his website, wordcurrents. He was a teacher of highschool English and Drama, and has extensive and intensive prepofessional and amateur experience in theatre and playwriting. Since his retirement in 1993, he has devoted full time to writing play, novels, short sties, and in particular, poetry.
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