The Testimony of the Late Arthur Young  by Blake Johnson

Flash Fiction, Poetry

Order. Order. The Dead Assembly will now hear

the testimony of the late Arthur Young—who claims

he found beauty in cowardice.

 

I paced back and forth in a small bedroom 

made infinite by midnight darkness

spilling through the windows faster than light 

ever had. The floorboards churned

while I stepped from plank to plank, wobbled

so much that I doubted their ability

to keep me from falling through the ground

into an entirely different hemisphere 

where no one knew not to call an ambulance

because my temporary insurance had run out

the day before.

 

Tin-can remedy in one hand, ballooning 

gut in the other, I sipped and shuffled—pausing

only at the bathroom threshold to imagine 

intestines flying out of my mouth like a can of snakes—

when suddenly manifold images floated  

out of the dark like phantom movie projections.

 

My fellow corpses, I confess, 

these visions unspooled all at once.

Yet I remember them all: 

 

Memories floated by—

the budget healer reiterated disregard

as I plead in pathetic tones. Help me,

it’s been a week since I’ve eaten, mend me,

or prescribe drugs. We’d only met the once,

but she spoke as if she knew me: are you sure

it’s not just anxiety? Maybe she was right

to ask the question. When a single word

defines a life, the word cannot be overlooked—

how could I rebut? I,

whose adrenal mechanisms had long been locked

in perpetual fight-or-flight; I, who flinch 

at the clatter of dishes and still dream 

of basement sanctuaries housing bearded men,

jabbing at the ground with pointed fingers, testifying

to flames forever lurking beneath our feet. She saw

me as I was. She shrugged and referred me elsewhere,

but there is no use lingering on that failed attempt 

at healing when yet stranger projections flared

up with absurd revelations—draped in a wool-

trench coat, cigarette dangling between amused lips,

a man stood gazing with the intent to keep

silent, occasionally gesturing at the smoke 

pouring out of his mouth, as if trying to illustrate

what ghosts looked like before dissipating

into stardust. Behind me, a disembodied baritone

claimed there was nothing

to be afraid of—when you’re dead

you aren’t aware of death or dying, so what

do you care? I turned to see who spoke

but there was only a desert stretch so barren

that every mile repeated itself in infinite

cycles of sunburnt earth. I did not embark. 

I did not move. I had once known a soldier

who spent years in such a place, how he spat

bullets—blooming pinpricks of light 

flung from the dunes like hurled stars—and laid bare 

the utter ridiculousness of war at the expense of himself 

and holy places. I couldn’t be sure

the desert was where all things ended, 

 

I couldn’t disbelieve in an afterlife, terrifying 

in its spectral secrecy; it suddenly seemed likely

God was displeased with me. His smoldering gaze

might reveal that he hated everything I had ever done,

just as the basement men had warned. Even the penitent

thief was presumably saved at the last moment,

so I, too, made a final gambit and cried out

for salvation and spent agonizing moments

guessing at the thoughts of my sudden patron

saint as he suffocated publicly, dangling above

crowds bored by the spectacle’s slowness. 

 

The astral projections faded

but I did not perish. Not then, not yet. I lived

past that fevered night, trapped beneath

the question of how to die without fear. 

In the intervening days, I crept quietly

among serene enclaves, courageous blowhards, 

and chaotic dreamers, observing their loneliest moments.

Before dawn, I stole into my city’s temple—

ancient in appearance for tourists’ pleasure—to watch

the monk’s pray. I hid beneath the floorboards;

light spilled through the cracks like planetary fissures

until bent knees and silent footfalls passed over

the light in prayerful eclipses. Chants spilled 

from throats like a rising mist, filling

the air with hushed precepts. Among these faithful

one had taken a vow of silence. Esteemed for his age

and devotion, he was called on to hold vigil

from sunrise to sunrise. The room emptied,

leaving him with no one to bear witness 

to his integrity save for a body unseen

beneath his feet. The ground rattled

as the monk slammed his fists 

over the very place I lay hidden,

and for a harrowing moment, I believed 

I’d been discovered, but he did not tear

away the floorboards and expose me 

to the enlightened air, only wept, then spoke

loud enough for me to hear. A terrible instinct

caused me to slam my palms over my ears—

still, I heard the first word of his broken vow: 

 

empty.

 

When I emerged, shoving aside the loose planks,

fleeing like a spider over whom a boot hovers, 

the monk merely wiped his eyes and pointed 

at my heart with a tear-stained finger. Two days

later, still having not slept, I drifted 

through downtown, in and out of bars

wedged between tenements past redemption,

where a grizzled traveler wearing rags

as filthy as my own spun around in his stool

and offered stories in exchange for anything

fermented. He laid a bizarre memento

on the counter—a fang as big as my thumb.

He claimed that he had been slain by dragons

         in a past life,

all for the love of a king who did not know

his name. No terror in the now, he claimed,

thumping his chest. Not when you have fallen

as I have fallen. And yet, as his trembling

fingers clutched a drained glass, I saw 

his eyes clouded by dragon’s breath, pluming dread.

I knew then he had nothing to offer beyond life

already lived, and that my burden was his own.

Who was left to turn to if not heroic reincarnations?

I snatched the fang from the counter and hurled

the trophy over the heads of brooding patrons

and morose dancers. The traveler sighed and disappeared

into the bar’s shadowy fringes to retrieve the relic—

I tried to follow, or at least I remember trying to follow,

 

but past this moment, I lost my grip on time’s passing.

I drifted like vapor from strangeness to strangeness,

unable to distinguish hours from days—how long

did the buildings shake like quivering limbs

until I collapsed in a street gutter? So many

faces hovered over me like confused constellations

doubting their portents. I do not remember 

their features, only their arrangement 

as they held a frantic debate 

over how to cradle the body of a stranger. 

Blink once and surge through garish tunnels

where disinfected air scythes through every breath.

Cords, incessant beeping, dapper gentlemen

radiating cold. Blink again and the glare of neon

crosses at your back will paint the raindrops red.

 

Admitted, discharged, admitted, discharged—with no end

in sight to the senseless shuffle. My eyes turned inward

and gazed at my guts, shriveled coils and broken tubes

carrying nothing but the faintest traces of virulent blood.

Yes, my vision darkened, or perhaps was renewed; I believed

shadows cast bodies and that all light was an illusion

perpetrated by the self. I prayed no longer, but screamed

their inverse, shouting at streetlamps spilling lies 

all over the road in flickering pools, hoping God

himself would meet me on the nighttime road, if only

to shut me up with all the searing brightness I disbelieved in,

 

but there was only the necropolis, emerging out of nowhere

like some long ignored promise. Surrounded by gravestones

poking through the earth, the tomb I now know is no tomb,

but an entrance to your hallowed undercity, sat moldering

like any other I had wondered at as a child. 

I would have ignored the crypt 

had it not been for the cloaked figure crouched

in front of its iron door, pouring over a heavy tome,

incanting deep-throated syllables. Creaking,

the door swung open, and the figure stood, arms outstretched

as if to receive an army. And you did come forth, 

not to obey any spell-weaver’s summons, but to avenge

the presumption that any among you might be controlled.

 

The magician did not think to stand his ground.

He fled from the tattered mass 

surging from the tomb’s mouth, cloak billowing, escaping

with his life. 

I did not move so quickly. In fetid hands

you carried me off, where we roam

underpasses and catacombs, discussing 

grim histories, as if all life amounts to demise. 

 

Now my memory meets the present moment.

My late friends, I’ve heard so many testimonies 

in the name of fifth-stage acquiescence—noble,

dignified, many of you exemplify strength

of spirit, but I will not remain with you. I reject

unlife below. I will call out the hated ones

           lurking in this pallid crowd:

Hades and Hel, I defy you, death-driven

harbingers in the lowest spaces, I defy you,

clamoring voices shrieking let go, let go,

I defy you. 

 

No monk or hero or waking vision

healed my fear. Only the spell-weaver

made me understand that I sought fearlessness

as if it were an escape hatch, that my disease 

was in seeking a cure. Have I gone beyond

simile and metaphor? Has speech failed, at last?

Then I will show you what the magus taught me.

 

I will show you the beauty of a coward

pivoting on a heel, fleeing to the surface

of his beloved earth.

 

###

Angel pussy by Kristin Garth

Kristin Garth, Punk Noir Magazine

for Moondog of Korine’s The Beach Bum 

is both an actual albino feline, 

the fountainhead where manchild poets

recline, vivisect viscous valentines

with mollycoddled tongues (though it’s 

been years since they were remotely young)

because they are only beautiful when 

they are inside.  They will always come 

back home to hide when the season

of hurricanes prohibits houseboats, 

well hung coxswains their steerage in

the deepest drink. With bandaged heads, they float 

towards Pabst Blue Ribbons on silver trays

to woo sugar mommas on grand Steinways. 

Tufskinz by Peter Relic

Poetry

In the brand new ruins

of Habersham Village

the placard outside The 5 Spot

MEATLOAF IS BACK! means

the dashboard light’s gone dark.

Marginalia in bike lane

Do not explore gravy-as-metaphor

suggests instead we seek analogy

in cauli mash sandwiched

between okra cakes

on special blue plate,

a stand-in for fate.

Will no one try to stop

KING OF TRANSPORT

tractor trailer impersonating

the fiery chariotry of process?

Now boarding Catch-A-Cat bus 25

to Probation Office.

Stuck on a traffic island

with a climate crisis sign

I burn each night

to keep cool,

I ask God’s Body

to spin it for a bit.

The way of the dinosaurs by Albert Kirk Jr

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

COP26 Royal Reception
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
1st November 2021


You’re right to think it’s fitting
that the leaders of a fragile world
should stuff their guts in Kelvingrove
amongst some plastic dinosaurs
and scraps of ancient empires;
and also
(labouring the point)
you’re right to note the lizards
and dominions are extinct.


And when the deluge overwhelms,
when bleak descendants trawl our dregs
for mangled artefacts they’ll think
of Glasgow COP as Rapture,
the Spitfire and iguanodon
beckoning a gormless clutch
of feckless rich buffoons,
flanked by doleful elephants
and Dali’s hanging Christ.


Albert Kirk Jr is from Ayrshire, Scotland. He has been writing poetry since August 2020. BRISTOL STOOL CHART REQUIRED, his first publication, is available now: https://www.albertkirkjr.com/published-works

2 poems by Gerard Manogue

Poetry

further away from hell on earth

further away from hell on earth

sitting in your dorm room in 2011

under a dim red light

not worried about pestilence or supply chains

or the mayan calendar

telling you over japanese whisky

that further into the anthropocene

the climate would be less livable

ten years later i was right

our nation went from being

a shining city on a hill

to a shrieking city in a ditch

and my fear could power

that machine that has been dispatched

to the great pacific garbage patch

trying to save the phytoplankton

producing the oxygen you breathe


the bacchanalia will be short lived

the bacchanalia will be short lived

as the fruit has stopped flowering

it was written in the hieroglyphs

that the grapes could not survive the summer

the global superpowers

are developing hypersonic missiles

while the redwoods smolder

atlantic meridional overturning circulation

is shutting down

while the malls are completely vacant

bovine skeletons in death valley come to life

as aquamarine earth turns into amber venus

even pharoah could not see

the steamy dissolution of his firstborn’s soul


Haibun for a missing tree by Sarah Wallis

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

 

 

The girl who was under the tree, where is she? A beautiful girl I was chasing or was it a dream of me… she carried with her a rainbow bright umbrella and stopped, just for a moment, to twirl under the tree, some enchantment at work. Or was I cursed? Or was she? What was her name… oh I remember me now, that was the story of Daphne, and I was the Big Bad Wolf, the Bogeyman of old, and some busybody transformed her in the dazzling light of day to a green leafy shade, the height of a tree.

 

The people are in uproar and rue and have decided to miss the colour green. Who has stolen their green? Protector from wind and weather, the tall man in the corner, he who breathes… ahhhhh, a long exhale out, oxygenates the planet? Where is he? Something Surely Must Be Done? Oh I remember me now, the Big Bad came in the night, fought the good man who had stood on the corner for 300 years, before the corner ever was, unless some corner of an English field, somewhere forever time capsuled and pastoral (and she no longer exists, there is only this, only this…)

 

They fought a one-sided battle and they axed, axed, axed and he cracked like thunder, and they whipped like lightning and defeated the proud man of the last square foot of soil they allowed him. They stole him away like a child, with threats and grunts and noise in the night, and helpless, they fed him to the Big Bad Wolf, with the ‘what big teeth you have’ grin, and so it was that the chip, chip, chipper got hold of him.

 

 

world breathes suddener

than Daphnes taken, her Dad’s

three hundred green boughs.

 

 



 

 



Sarah Wallis is a poet and playwright based in Scotland, since moving from Yorkshire two years ago. She has two chapbooks out in the world at the moment, Medusa Retold, from @fly_press and Quietus Makes an Eerie from Dancing Girl Press, with How to Love the Hat Thrower due May 2022 from @SelcouthStation. She tweets @wordweave and you can find out more at sarahwallis.net
Attachments area

I always came around to your aesthetic by David Calogero Centorbi

Poetry

Like the sunlight held
in the crystals you hung
from the low tree branches in the side yard.
As we sat there,
I swore I heard voices coming from them.
Maybe the tree conversating
with the hot bloodlight that kept it breathing?
When I told you,
you said,
“Sure, you probably did hear voices.
But we cannot understand the language.
Maybe, once upon that time when we felt
passion for the rocky, wet, green, and blue places
that bore us,
but we left that embrace
so many years ago.”

You went in as dusk came.
I closed my eyes and kept still,
and hoped,
that if I wanted to understand the voices,
that hope
would become a prayer
the soon to be held starlight would accept,
and be gracious enough to whisper
to me
everything the voices were saying.


David Calogero Centorbi is a writer that in the 90’s earned an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. Now, he is writing and working in Detroit, MI. He is the author of  Landscapes of You and Me, (AlienBuddha press) and AFTER FALLING INTO DISARRAY (Daily Drunk Press)

Where rivers go by Ben Riddle

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

We sleep in the back of a sedan
they don’t make anymore; back seats
folded down so we can fit our feet
into the back and leave
footprints there.

All we have left are footprints behind
us, all we have taken are memories.
There is a powerlessness in
the proletariat, and
I am tired of going it alone.

I am glad you are here with me, and
we hold each other in the quiet
of the night; intimate, but
not romantic. There is
no longing between us; just survival.

Caryards are being sold for scrap and
coal mines are collapsing with
the weight of misuse,
automation is
quietly conquering Australia.

The march for progress is meaningful,
but mass producing workers that
don’t know their rights is not,
I can no longer spot the
difference between

Amazon drones on patrol, and
the dead eyes of people going to work
again again their insides counting
seconds between sign out
sign in sign out again.

I don’t know how much we can change,
or how far the twenty in my pocket will
get when we buy fuel, but tonight
we can see the Southern Cross
blazing bright like

there is hope, and the stars are
God, and I am Constantine watching
Christ come over the hill to baptise
the Romans. People drink
because there is nothing

to hope for, and people don’t stop
drinking because there is
nothing to hope for.
Sometimes the
change in your pocket

pays for leaving people behind.
The people you leave behind
don’t have to be bad, some
are just confrontation,
some speak anxiety

in quiet tones they think are kind, and
when I left you it was easier to
be me, or be sober, but
there are no jobs
left in coal mines or construction.

The recession looks like boarded up
windows, quiet streets and
domestic violence.
Beer halls made the union movement,
men and women standing on

bar tables saying this is enough.
This far and no further, but
we privatised the unions
just like everything else;
sold them to politicians, and

lobbyists looking
for sob stories about giving back, or
changing. Maybe Labor parties
are just about tax deductibles,
political clout, or

maybe the way to stop change was
to leave suggestion boxes in
break rooms and say
“you are being heard,”
until everyone believed it.

Sobriety looks like boarded up
buildings and places you choose not to
go, or remember. It looks like
not returning calls from
people that make you sick.

Sloping roads bleed into gutters
that dribble brown beer and
boilermakers in the rain,
like walking past
the warms of comradery.




The most important thing about Ben Riddle is that he is building a little library

2 poems by Jared Beloff

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

Politicians discussing climate change

                after Isaac Cordal


faces, stripped like tree limbs,

or fish lipping 

the water’s skin 

bald, scale sore and slow to rise,

or rocks that

hide beneath the

surface, determining the flow for 

what we 

cannot see:

an open mouth, a tongue caught

like a hook

speaking,

supplication sounds like drowning,

anger dips

under the ebb,

a ninth wave. we’ve run out

of names

for windswept

clouds and coasts battered

our arms 

tired, tied.


How to smile in front of a melting glacier


her jacket bunches at the knot, 

wrists held in place before her

smile’s rictus fades into the camera’s

light— she stands there wondering 

whether her smile is now seeping 

through sand to rejoin the ocean 

or the dark mountains revealed 

beneath its gleam.



Jared Beloff is a teacher and poet who lives in Queens, NY with his wife and two daughters. You can find his work in Contrary Magazine, Rise Up Review, Barren Magazine, Bending Genres, The Shore and elsewhere. He is the editor of the Daily Drunk Magazine’s forthcoming anthology of Marvel inspired poetry, Marvelous Verses. His work was nominated for Best of the Net 2021. You can find him online at www.jaredbeloff.com. Follow him on twitter @read_instead

Nature vs. Nurture by Laura Besley

Micro fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

When the sea slips over the cliffs and starts swallowing hunks of land whole, the village chief calls a meeting, suggests stacking houses to save space.

Everyone is in favour until it needs to be decided who stays on the ground level.  

A man stands up. ‘Bigger houses should carry the weight of smaller ones,’ he says.

‘No,’ another man says. ‘We should put the houses closest to the coast on top of those further inland.’

Disgruntled whispers grow louder until they roar around the room.

The chief raises his hand to get people’s attention. ‘We will stay here until we are all in agreement.’

Discussions rage for three days and three nights.

The sea remains ravenous. Silences them all.


Laura Besley is the author of micro fiction collection, (Un)Natural Elements (Beir Bua Press, 2021), 100neHundred (Arachne Press, 2021), and flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers (Dahlia Books, 2020). 

Having lived in the Netherlands, Germany and Hong Kong, she now lives in land-locked central England and misses the sea. She tweets @laurabesley