Cliff Weber: Featured author

the red line at midnight


on the subway

a middle-aged man

with scraggly grey hair

taps us on the shoulder

to show us a handwritten sign

which says,

I am deaf

please help if you can,

to some extent

causing a younger man behind us

to yell,

he ain’t deaf

he can talk

I’ve heard him

don’t fall for it,

also to some extent

so I shake off the beggar

and say, sorry, in the process

which he may

or may not have heard


the subway is always full of characters

and as each peculiar moment passes

under flickering fluorescents

another one is conceived

and soon it shall breathe life

for all us late night travelers to see


and occasionally

eye contact is shared

and held

between fellow strangers

only to remain held

as images

and preconceptions

unravel in the mind of two


cherish all of these moments

even the dancing man

selling sticky incense which smells of medicine

for they are real

and unflattering

and isn’t that what we love most?




We move toward the mirage

with legs doused in sand

and sleeves rolled up into our armpits.

But it’s there—

oh, I can see it.

Shimmering in the golden haze

like the sine waves of air

behind a bbq pit.

Drench the coals in kerosene

and drop a match on the grill

so we can watch the flames jut towards the heavens

mimicking the sharp tips of the wooden fence

looming in the background.


The mirage is there

that much I promise.

And though our throats are dry

and lips chapped

and hands scaly with dead skin

those shimmering waves of air

are calling my name

beckoning me with curled fingers.

Can’t you hear?

You have to listen closely

for sometimes the whispers

are louder than the rest.


looking for what


Should we start?

What should we do?

Should we stop?

What should we do?

What are we looking for?

What are you looking for?

Why are you looking at me?

I don’t have the answer

and neither do you.

Does this overall lack of clarity

surprise you?

Welcome to the maze.

The infinitely



       of                     tomorrow

                                              and the beast




Forget your trail of bread crumbs

for it has already been devoured.


mr. demille


Enough of science and art;

close up on purple stains & pale smoke,

the smiling Descent of Winter

and a woe weathered halfgone moon.


Close up on the flight of a human soul

surmounted by black and white heroes of the past—

life suspended between familiar blank fields

and rueful skies.


Close up on the uniform of intellect,

an insect’s unseen calm

and the skin of a ripe plum

colored blue from the languorous light of the sea.


When we’re able to outshine the pageantry of fear

those towering tombs with swiveling eyes

appear barren

as they are and have forever been.




Phil Collins belts out his cheesy vocals

that echo through our kingdom

our 80s palace perched atop the hills of purity

the elevated ridges that lie above a fog of dissipating honesty.


Facades and lies and masks that hide the soul have no place in our

paradise of vulnerability—our sanctuary of truth and beauty and

childish courage that swims through the succulent veins of soldiers

hoisting loaded rifles with glimmering bayonets leading the way.


a collision of sorts


I was buying a cheap 40 oz.

with my dog in tow

when a young homeless man came up behind us

he was blond and tan

but his eyes were darty and distant

and immediately I knew

all of my change would be his



I don’t know

because my pain runs deep with them

every single one

but I can’t give it all away

I can’t empty my wallet

at the drop of a frown

no matter how much I want to


so I restrain

I dissect

and I second guess

but always

every goddamn time

I’m left with a sickness in the pit of my stomach

that nags

and tugs

and tries to suffocate my happiness

but I won’t let it because I can’t bear to think of myself in such a

hollow position surrounded by such hollow souls with slicked back

hair and crisp lapels and legs that are trained to migrate away from

the uneasy stare of misfortune


hell no

I can’t let it eat me alive

I’m too weak

so I donate when I can

as often as I can

and attempt to move on

because I have to


but every now and then

one of the wounded come limping up

and try to pet my dog

but he’s growling

and I wonder why

but maybe he’s just scared

maybe we’re all scared

so I look at the wounded soul

and I don’t care what he’s done

for I’ll never know

and I don’t care why he did it

for I’ll never know

and I hand him all of my change

and walk away before his thank you reaches my ears


a walk up hillhurst


people pack inside the coffee shop

with their computers

and notepads

and wandering eyes

pretending to be infinitely important

and endlessly perplex

when all they actually want is to be seen

and to be comforted

by a group of strangers

who share the same insecurity

because those wandering eyes

aren’t meant to ward anyone off

or protect precious work

they’re lonely invitations

to a disappointing party

an empty beachside mansion

with the host asleep on the couch

watered down whiskey still in hand


so I get my coffee to go

and find a nearby bus bench

where I can write alone

until an old man

holding two bags of groceries in each hand

takes the open seat to my left

as I finish my poem


a nice walk can invigorate the mind

and inspire tired knees

but on my way back

I see a cat sitting on a windowsill

who pays no attention to me as I pass

entirely unaffected by my presence


I guess I don’t mean anything to him

but he means something to me


— Cliff Weber

Cliff Weber is 26 years-old and lives in Los Angeles. He has self-published three books and two chapbooks, all of which can be purchased on and in select bookstores. His work has appeared in Adbusters, Out of Our, Beatdom, Bartleby Snopes, and Burningword, among others. He will begin the Creative Writing program at USC in the fall of 2013. Follow his blog, Word Meds (, for your daily dose of literature. 


Ten minutes ago, I dropped you

at the airport, and you cried and I stared

blankly at the wall above your head, waiting

for the tears I knew wouldn’t fall,

not there, not then,

not when I needed them to.


Now I’m on the road, heading back

to the apartment you helped me decorate,

and there’s a hole in my stomach,

the air conditioner blasting right through it,

knowing that you’re sitting alone

in the terminal, trying your best

to bury your sadness but falling

short—way short, your eyes red like

the blouse you walked away in. But also

because I’m hungry,

because we ate brunch, not lunch,

and now it’s dinner time; and

if you were here with me right now, in the car,

we’d be discussing our dinner options,

flipping through our combined mental rolodex

of recently purchased Target grocery items,

each of us pretending to desire

what we suspect the other one does.


Ultimately, we would debate

over chicken stir fry or baked Swai,

and because neither one of us knows how

to make a decision, we would leave

that decision to chance and play rock-paper-scissors,

and you would win, like you always do,

so we would eat what you thought I wanted, which was the Swai,

and you would have been right.

I do want the Swai.


I want the Swai right now, but thinking of the Swai

makes my face contort

like a deep-sea monster,

my upper lip fat

and quivering,

my cheeks swollen, my eyebrows rolling

like the Nebraska Sandhills

we canoed through last summer. And of course

now I’m crying, now that I’m alone,

because how in the hell am I supposed to make Swai

when the only thing I know about Swai

is that I love you? 

Carson Vaughan

Carson is a native Nebraskan and freelance writer with published features work in Salon, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Orion, Truthout, the Omaha World Herald, the Lincoln Journal Star, the Wilmington Star News, and other publications. He currently serves as the nonfiction editor of Ecotone at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Sarah Marchant: five poems



at the mercy of my feelings

in the palm of your hand

you’ve got me.


headlights float outside my window

like UFOs or the goat-drawn

chariots of Norse gods.


I’ll spell these figment cuddles

and kisses into stars

imploding, melting at my fingertips.


this has happened too many

times and my smile has found its crease,

but there are too few promises left


to group like marbles,

rolling in the bottom of a bucket.



Polite Love Notes


The wind whips, whistling

outside my window. Dirty laundry

strewn across the bed,

my thoughts of you

sprawling over every spare surface.


The chill of January

draws to a close and here

I am, my imagination

drawing you close, closer.


Kissing ghost lips,

wishing beyond wishes,

pronouncing every “please”

as clearly as I can


because my hopes are climbing

out of my chest

onto this page, a canvas,

whatever they can reach


ever writing and rewriting

the poem that keeps you near me.



My Heart Thrums Like the Radio


Happy is hard to hold,

fling a rope and do your best

to tie it up tidy

take the flood captive.


But you unwound the spark,

tapping a rhythm

amid the ordinary colors

a dance of pulses and pearls.



Stealing Kisses in An Art Gallery


Dropping I love yous like candy pieces

licking up scraps of affection

whenever they are spared.


Glorying in the sound of

my own name, eyes closed in

reverence, basking in


the thickest fog and prettiest paint.

Stow the memories, the needless nostalgia,

for this moment has me lighter than air.



Cold Calligraphy


Something delicate,

something I could understand

like pink petals cascading

settling soft on pale skin –

blonde hair,

glimmering eyes.


Not anything like this cold –

a girl carving sentences,

her friends to fragments,

herself to pieces.

I would hold her but for all

the edges. But for

my wounds being cut

just as fresh, just as cleanly.


— Sarah Lucille Marchant (


The Urban Legend of the Video Nasty

My Mother is a video nasty,

a  lurid analog nightmare

transcribed with bloody fingers

onto VHS, shoved in a thin

cardboard box with age lines like soggy skin,

then sealed in urban legends:

tight, taught cellophane.  


They speak of it in whispers on

discussion boards.


How the tracking is off on every copy,

EVERY copy.  There is a gnarly buzz

scratching through the opening credits.


The last 15 minutes are legendary.

She removes her face with her finger nails,

pulls it off like a thin rubbery plastic.


A secret face, white 

microwaves of intense mockery,

focused as a lighthouse beam.


Papi dies the hard way, the Clive Barker way.

Hangers like hooks, fish hooks,

tear him asunder.

He is hunks of raw, red steak.

Ribs flower from 

torso as marrow oozes like a thick pollen.


This is an important shot, the commenters say,

the reconfiguring of his sex.  KubrickFurry asserts

Ann’s monstrous feminine is conservative.  RandallFlag 

retorts there is a lacanian message obscured by this corpse

flower:  the trauma of child abuse embodied by the real.

I am dodging face suns, hauling ass through the

barbed chain bramble that was my home.


Avatars debate over impossible architecture: men and women 

sparring with verbal chainsaws as I run through

a five and a half minute hallway, chased by a faceless medusa

in a dream of jagged ambien singed into the glass eye of a

Kodak camera. 


No one understands the ending.

They say I have to live,

fight my sister in the sequel.

They say the irrational is the milieu of cult films.


I say burn every copy of this ring virus.

Smash it.

Crush it.

Never let your mother watch it.


David Arroyo

Fred D. White

1. The Confession


“I know that Cheri’s been cheating on me.”

I looked at Rod. We were jogging together around the lake. “She told you?”

“Fuck no; the bitch is too afraid of me to spit it out.”

“Then how—“

“Her face told me. I been with her long enough to tell. No different than if she confessed outright.” Rod picked up speed; I managed to keep up with him even though I hadn’t been jogging much lately.

“Maybe you’re misreading her. Maybe—“

“Here’s what I’m gonna do to the fucker once I squeeze it out of her who she fucked.” He slowed down and pulled a switchblade from his shorts pocket. “I’m gonna cut off his dick. Slowly, so I can enjoy the screaming. Then I’ll shut him up by shoving it into his mouth. And then I’ll grab my .38 and—”

“Jesus, Rod, stop it. Just stop it!”

“It’ll be quite a show, Gus. I’ll give you a ringside seat. ‘Wild West Justice.’”

We finished our jog in silence. As I turned to head for home, Rod said, “If she’s still visiting with Jill tell her to get her ass back here now.”

Jill and Cheri were on the sofa, solemnly watching Cheri’s son, Rod Jr., playing with the puppy. I pecked Jill on the cheek. She didn’t respond.

Cheri stared at me; then she said, “Did you and Rod have a good run?”

“I need a drink,” I said—more to myself than to Jill or Cheri, and went into the kitchen. I poured some whiskey into a tumbler, took a gulp, sat down, and put my head in my hands.

Cheri walked in after a decent interval. She looked ill. I could see what she was thinking.  



2. The Wound


Dennie said he wanted to show me something. We’d been lounging in his back yard. It got very hot so we went inside. He made a pitcher of lemonade, spiked it with his mother’s vodka, what the hell, she was out of town for the weekend. We played some chess. He must have poured a lot of vodka into the lemonade because after just a few swigs the chess pieces began moving by themselves.

“You said you wanted to show me something, Dennie?”

Wincing, he slowly removed his shirt. His fingers were long and thin. “This.” He moved to one side and lifted his arm

There was a huge purple contusion on his ribcage.

“Jeez, what happened to you?”

He dropped his arm, readjusted himself on his chair and returned his attention to the chessboard. He wiggled his finger on a pawn as if trying to decide whether to deploy it or not. “It was BB .”

“Bad Brad Jensen?”

Dennie finally moved the pawn. “Yeah.”


“During basketball practice.” As Dennie explained it, he and BB had had gotten into an argument. BB began speed-dribbling the ball and suddenly flung it at Dennie with such force that Dennie stumbled and fell. He called BB a thug and flipped him off. Before Dennie could get back on his feet, BB kicked him in the ribs.

There was this unwritten rule: giving guys like BB the bird would earn you a bashed-in face or a couple of broken bones.

“More lemonade, Carl?

I nodded.

“Too bad BB has such a mean streak,” Dennie sighed. “There was a time when I felt sure we were really gonna hit it off.”

“Hard to imagine.”

Dennie gazed at me for a long moment and smiled. Finally, he said, “Your move.”



3.  The Rumor


Did you hear the rumor?

I most certainly did. Isn’t it disgusting? How could they have been so sinful?

It doesn’t surprise me. Everywhere you look, people are turning into sinners.

I wonder if the rest of the neighborhood heard about it. Well, I am going to find out.

In just a few hours, the rumor had spread through the neighborhood. But the rumor did not stop there. It spread through the next neighborhood and the next. By the end of the following day, the rumor had spread through the entire town.

It was a wildfire of a rumor.

The rumor spread to one town after another. By the end of the week, the rumor had spread across the county, gaining strength as it spread, reshaping itself as it grew stronger with each new county it invaded.

Did you hear the rumor? Did you hear what they did? Isn’t it disgusting? How can people be so sinful?

The wildfire became a conflagration, consuming every county in the state, consuming the state, and eventually every state in the lower forty-eight. Alaska was delayed, thanks to Canada; Hawaii was spared.

Three persons dared to quash the rumor, the monstrosity that the rumor had become. Those individuals were apprehended, branded as enemies of the faith, and promptly silenced. Of course, they had become the flashpoint of yet another rumor.


Fred D. White


Fred D. White’s work has appeared in Confrontation, Michigan Quarterly Review, Other Voices, Pleiades, Southwest Review, Writer’s Digest, etc. His most recent book is *Where Do You Get Your Ideas? A Writer’s Guide to Transforming Notions into Narratives* (Writer’s Digest Books, 2012).



Kansas in the Corner

look at old kansas in the corner

everyone laughs

they always do

stared into the sun for too long

went blind went crazy

went way too fast on icy roads

and drinks to dowse a burning mistake


he says –

i remember the black and white days

back in goodland

the spencer girls in tight cotton dresses

                  walking back from church

                  in the sweet heat of summer

shutters slapping the old henderson house

most nights i could hear them


before you were born

the sky was sepia



you’re hearing ghosts – old kansas in the corner

he sits slouching with a bible and a bell

the old man knocks one  back and spins faster

                  in the world of whiskey


he says –

i dug the earth for fifty years

i’m a fifth generation to plow these fields

but the crop is thin these days


the red plains yawn under the  new sun

like beasts yoked for labor



Kevin McCoy


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