Poems by Josh Shepard

Poetry, Punk Noir Magazine

Last Requests: Serial for Dinner

after photographer Henry Hargreaves





a bucket of chicken / twelve jumbo

shrimp / french fries / all fresh

and nothing as decadent as innocence

nothing as sweet / as a secret well-kept

but the strawberries will leave / a stain






nothin special here / just a meal / same

as any other / one that would fit in 

on any old diner’s menu / unremarkable like

the stranger beside you / no requests here

just / an American classic 





won’t do no good eatin today / be gone to-

morrow / i get what’s comin to me / same

as the rest / just coffee for me / thanks

i take it same as my men / devoured




Two Poems for Bipolar Disorder from Macho Man Randy’ Savage’s “Cream of the Crop”


                                “Nothing means nothing.”

                                -Macho Man Randy Savage to Mean Gene Okerlund,

                                 May 11, 1987


madness has got me                                                           

something loud



living a nightmare


& I fall. I am

on balance, off balance.


I’ve been maligned

& can’t handle it.




talking about madness

got more to offer than that


I got glory, yeah, 

& a nightmare


the weight of the world

& nothing’s gonna stop me


nothing I can’t handle

nobody does it better!






Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

It’s while I’m shelving dog-eared Christian fiction paperbacks, 

somewhere between Karen Kingsbury and Beverly Lewis,

that his voice echoes from the clearance section, 

over the undusted shelf tops, to find me, 

dis                          sociating,

deep in the throes of an ill-advised edible high,

“Yes, I’d like to place an order—”

and I figure out this asshole is on the phone

(the phone! in the middle of a quiet bookstore),                                                       and he goes on:

“How much is it for one cookie cake?”

                                I sort books by section:                    Children & Teens               Christian Dating

Christian Marriage & Divorce             Christian Parenting & Family            Christian Business & Finance

             Devotionals            Christian Living            Christian Grief & Loss            Heaven & Hell

“What sizes do you have?

How much for the large?                                                   The medium then?

Alright,  I’ll take                                  one small cookie cake.                                                        The colors?

                                Pink,                                                      purple,                                                   & white.”

Same as the book in my hand:                                                                        The Power of a Praying Parent

“—and is there any way—”                                              he asks,                                  “—that you could do those little

                                icing flowers?”                                                                     

I clearance out a copy of 

The Five Love Languages                            and shelve another in its place.                       “How fast can you

                                have that ready?”                                he asks,                  as Dave Ramsey grins at me

from a book on display                                                                    as though he has just  farted 

and is waiting for me to smell it.

“Can you have it ready any sooner?                                Maybe one o’clock?                                              Today?”

                                The women who buy and sell back these   Christian romance novels                  

                                                                                                with their images of sexually frustrated Amish quilters,

of chastened or redeemed Caucasian couples                                            in the same one pose,                                                         almostnotquite kissing,                                    

put their initials inside the back cover

to know they’ve read this one already,                                                          

not to buy it on accident again.

                “Great, that will work.                                                      Oh, sure—it doesn’t cost extra, does it?

                                                And how many words do I get?”

                                                                The Spiritual Warfare shelf warns me of the perils of hell, 

and its path paved by Halloween & the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,                                                                                           fast living & the leftist agenda,                                               each swearing an authority up on high,

                                                                incomparable stakes

Battlefield of the Mind               The Armor of God                War Room

“Well in that case,”                            he says,                  “make it say Happy Belated Mother’s Day.”

                I finish shelving  my cartful of salvation                                      & damnation

and wonder about whether and what things 

can be or cannot be forgiven.

Josh Shepard is a poet and artist living in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. His work can be found most recently or upcoming in Waxwing, Bureau of Complaint, The Lunch Break Zine, cool rock repository, and Slipstream.