There’s a rise among us-


where we breathe uncomforts.
We see and hear the walklings
skip across our heads;
feel their heels dig
into our existence.

Souls are just like flesh
except unblemished.
They rip open easy–
ooze out into the air.
Where they become
less than intended.

Their rotting wounds
satiate our thoughts
until we can no longer
think and reason and sense
our beginnings and ends
hence eternity is Hell.

I felt the exact moment or thereabouts
when my soul slit open–

I found a cockroach in the kitchen.
Squashed it with the bottom of my glass.
Wiped its remains on the counter’s edge.
Poured Jack in the glass. Met it’s brim.
Drank it straight
down without a second thought.

Or maybe it was the time
when I told that lady she looked good
in that skirt. When in fact, she looked like
a deranged flamenco dancer on crack.

If not those, definitely
when I saw my son slam
his mouth into the table
and my initial reaction was
‘that’s just fuckin’ great’!

I wonder if the walklings know
they are just a thought away
from oozing their soul
into the slums of oblivion?

I wonder if they know
that when they pass a homeless lady
on the street without giving
her at least one freakin’ donut
out of the dozen they carry–

they are indeed ripping the seams
of their silver-linings?

But then again, if they knew,
they’d probably give her one!
Not to be kind
but to prevent the ooze.

Hell, they might stategize
and give her two
like stockpiling good deeds.

It doesn’t work that way you know.
The act has to come pure without self-thought.
It’s harder than one would think.

Take this for example-
A lady gave away her cab.

We watched from down here
through the grates under the streets.

She waved a cab down.
When it pulled over she went to get in
but saw an old man hobbling toward her-
waving, yelling “Hold it! Please!”

She held the door open for him. It took him forever
but she still kept a smile. When he got there,
she suggested they share the ride.

He replied “That’d be great!”
and then said he’d pay
since she was so nice to hold the cab.

She let the old man get in first and offered her arm
for support. He slid over and told the cab driver
his destination ‘the westside.’

The lady thanked the old man for his kind offer
but noted that she was going to ‘the eastside.’

She wished him well and shut the door.
But here under the layer of her reality-

We saw how she lifted her head
and wrinkled her nose
as the old man scraped by her
when he got into the cab.

His more than a day old body odor
hugged her too tight. She couldn’t breathe

We heard as she stood on the sidewalk
sniffing her clothes, her hair, her arm-
she cursed that old man and muttered
“G-D, I hope I don’t smell like him!
Maybe it’s just on my sleeve!”

She took off her dress Jacket
and waved another cab down.
It was easy
for her to get a cab.

Here, under the walklings-
we can see and hear them: truly.

We feel the shiver of thin slivered souls
drip down the metals bars
that barely separate
us from them.

Maggie Shurtleff

A Fine Line

by jc jaress

Forty years of cigarettes had worked her face over like a metal rake and her hair that she says use to fall like golden sunshine now sits brittle and high upon this plucked and painted landscape

But she still has legs

And an ass that stumble-dances its way from barstool to barstool like a parade of horses on their way to the starting gate carrying the jocks wearing their multi-colored silks

Prancing and snorting

All stiff legged, every step working up the lather between their cheeks

But it isn’t the body that keeps her in business, no, it’s the way she carries it

Teetering on that fine line between holding your whole world in the palm of her hand as if you are the only man that she would ever know

Or falling down piss-drunk in the street

Tonight, she’s been here too long and has worn out most of her welcome

Finishing her drink, she makes a move toward the door and, fighting with the barstool over her purse, crashes to the floor in a great heap of legs and ass

God, she must’ve had great lather a few years back

speaking freely, but in the wrong person

you think about words and
about the places they come from

you think about meaning

about these small beautiful images
that the poets polish like valuable stones

that are worth
the tiniest fraction of nothing
and against them you place your
grey slabs of self-hatred

you talk about the burning girl
long after her ashes have grown cold

and you remember reagan
as a monster

as a vampire
but you have reached
a point in time where no one else
wants to speak the truth
about the dying

you have become
a man defined as angry because
this is what fear looks like
when seen from outside one’s own skin

and it matters that you love your wife
or at least it should
and so you act like it does

you walk an uncertain line
between making promises and
telling lies

you end up thinking about words

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