2 poems by Clem Flowers

Punk Noir Magazine

CLOSET CHAMPION

It was a flood

Of dreams– omens

Held to the jugular

Nothing

Nothing- just deer fat

& cotton wadding

In the lean

As the jubilee

Of black sugarcane

Reclaims the valley

Under a swimming glaze

Of ruby petals

& the thick melodies

Of the blue cardinals


Bay of Burnt Brass

True loves always burn each other in effigy at least that’s what you told me as the sky opened up into foams of rattlesnake hearts and or it’s old prescription bottles while the mountain sort of sang an old gospel tune and the peaches fell into the river and the water is all turning black certain the bricks will soon be swallowed by Hellfire but every time the Thunder cracks like a slick glass in an old sink I smile like a jackass eating Briars and think of all the silk in the sky I used to hone in on while drinking downtown like a ticker-tape champion guzzling champagne


Clem Flowers (They/ Them) is a soft spoken southern transplant living in spitting distance of some mountains in Utah. Maker of a fine omelet, but scrambled egg game needs some fine tuning. Nb & bi, they live in a cozy apartment with their wonderful wife & sweet calico kitty. They can be found on Twitter at @hand_springs777

Bus Station by Mark Renney

Flash Fiction

The Bus Station has become the focus of my latest route. This place, where people congregate and prepare to leave and where they arrive, is now the centre of the trail I have forged here in the City.

I have tried not to stray too far from the Station but this has proved difficult. I need thrust and momentum and my route must allow for this. It has to be big enough and wide enough so that I can keep moving and push myself forward. But wherever I am in the City I am aware of the quickest and most direct way back to the bus terminal. I am always ready in case of an emergency but what that emergency might be I have no idea. But it feels good to have somewhere to head toward and I have tried and tested all of these tributaries, all of the shortcuts.

It is cold and wet tonight. I may perhaps linger a little and wait out the storm, but as I make my way through the terminal, I realise that, yet again, I am pushing against the tide of travellers. They don’t see me and, cocooned in their heavy winter coats, heads down and hunched over their phones, they are hardly aware of each other.

Once clear, I glance back but only fleetingly and there they are, huddled beneath the inadequate plexiglass and I don’t stop.  No, I keep going.

There is a window in the early hours when the Bus Station is deserted. The rush hour crowd is long gone and it is a chance for the others, for those who don’t leave, to step in from out of the rain and take shelter. It is our turn to wait.

I walk across the forecourt and the turning area directly in front of the Station. The lights have dropped to an energy saving low level but I spot the young man instantly. He is standing beside a plate glass screen and beneath one of the ‘Stop’ signs. The first buses won’t arrive for at least four or five hours and he is either incredibly late or extremely early.

The man is jittery and anxious and he stares intently at the timetable attached to the pole. He could move into the waiting area and join the others, slumped on the benches and huddled in the corners with their blankets and their dogs and their cans of Special Brew but of course he doesn’t.

I understand it. I feel his fear. It rises in me unbidden, something out of the past that has been buried down deep. It is only a memory but I can taste it again and I want to spit it out and tell the man to fuck off. He raises his head and just momentarily our eyes meet and he flinches. I push past him and join the others, letting him be.

The Bus Station is no longer a beacon, a light I can head toward at night or a place where I can just fleetingly expose myself to a little daytime bustle or I can step into from out of the cold and warm my hands on a polystyrene cup of weak but scalding hot tea

The Station’s usefulness for me is fast fading and yet I am here all of the time now. I stalk its environs and it is hardly ever out of my sight and never clear of my mind. I am haunted by it or more accurately I am the one who haunts the Station. I am an ethereal presence, hovering above the ground, a waft of smoke with no reflection in the glass. But if they looked, if the rush hour regulars really, really looked and not just when they arrive but also when they leave, if they looked back from the windows of their buses, they would see me standing here, still waiting.


Mark Renney lives in the UK. He has had work published in various small press publications, Zines and on-line journals including The Interpreter’s House, Still, Yellow Mama, Unbroken Journal, Weird Mask, RaWNervZ and 365 Tomorrows. Blog: The Brokedown Pamphlet https://markrenney1.Wordpress.com

Prosetry and flash by victoria brooks

Punk Noir Magazine

Cherry Queer

Come, sweet one. Look how you’ll dance. Look into the mouth of your future, and see its cherry-tinted tongue. Take genders. Take desires, take them all.

            “I came out too late,” you say.

            Bitterly, you shout, “straight people hate me and so do queers. Not straight enough, not queer enough. That’s me. I don’t deserve to fit.”

 In reply, a childish red scent fruits the air and tickles your nose. The smell comes from a bowl of cherries, offered to you as a welcome gift. All of them shine. Unafraid, and falling in love with your own tastes, you take one.

Enter. This future is just for you, just as it is justfor everyone. This is how bisexuality can feel, but not always how it is. Pain stirs in your bones.

            You manage to ground yourself. You feel the shapes of so many discarded cherry stones beneath your feet. A thousand juice-drenched lips summon you.

            You can do this.

Pain always drags at you. Snags at you, in moments like these; it grasps from the past and says to your advancing foot, “wait, here is a memory. Remember what he did to you. It’s not safe to tread there.”

            Slowly, you take its tired hand in yours and say gently, “I know you’re there. I love you and I won’t forget you. I love how you have helped me travel in time, but you cannot keep my body in the past.”

            Welcome, sweet one.

This room

This room is exactly the same as the one next-door, the one opposite, above and below. In other rooms, there might be the addition of a grey corporate chair, or there might be a different picture on the wall, beside the flat-screen television. The picture will be one of two: three blue lollipop-shaped trees with equal spaces between them, growing from red grass, against a purple sky; or an anodyne close-up of a thistle.

Asiya has seen both pictures.

Why the fuck are the trees in the picture blue?

Perhaps the hotel chain thinks the tree picture is inoffensive. She doesn’t think it is.

He’s finished shouting at her for now. She drags her body from the bed and walks to the bathroom.

The taps are modern and shiny. Asiya bends toward the sink to splash cold water on her face. She catches sight of her nose reflected back at her. She’s been crying for hours, so she looks like a clown. The sink is a big, blank, white square. She leans upon it, one hand on each corner. She lifts her face and looks into the large clean mirror. She looks thin and tired in the bright white light. The floor is made of a grey plastic material. It has flecks. They irritate her. Does the designer think that people look at them and admire the imagination and inventiveness of the pattern?

Asiya sees in the mirror that he has got up from the bed and is dressing. He’s storming out. She hears him push the smooth metal handle of the hotel room door. There is silence for a second, and then a smooth, satisfying click as the door slides shut.

Victoria Brooks is a researcher and writer living in London. She writes about sex, ethics, bisexuality and trauma recovery, and is a graduate student on the MA Novel Writing program at Middlesex University. She writes queer fiction and her writing has been published in Litro, Stone of Madness Press and Lickerish Library. Victoria is working on her first queer sci-fi novel and you can find her work at https://victoriathewriter.com/ and follow her on Twitter @V_Eleuteria and Instagram @Queermistresswifehuman

Salt and Acid by Anastasia DiFonzo

Poetry

When she asks

if I believe her, I say

he pinned me down on a bench

in the middle of the night

like a father desperate

to pacify his babe

and wouldn’t let me go

until I stopped crying,

my tears turning to acid

on his salty hands.

He took a child’s

belt and yanked

it around my ankles

until they chafed,

sparked, and turned to fire.

He asked would I leave

if he strangled me,

as he cowered, insisting

he’d locked the door

in — as if one could lock the door

in — his eyes wet as the Beast

and I was his Beauty

and I came back, each time

I came back, but no,

I did not ask for it.

I say me too.


Anastasia DiFonzo (she/her) is a San Diego based poet with a cat named Klaus. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic, Gnashing Teeth Publishing, Sledgehammer Lit, Kalopsia Literary Journal, Salt & Citrus, and Drunk Monkeys. She is on Instagram at @anastasia.difonzo and Twitter at @anmidaludi.

Warning Signs by Mark McConville

Punk Noir Magazine

I narrowly escaped your grasp 

A potent hand of disaster

This is not a dream or a much-loved snapshot 

It is hell on earth. 

I am bitterly disappointed in myself 

For losing the will and dropping the page 

Of reason into the fire that burns in my eyes

And on the heartland 

A harsh land where the heartless roam 

And nip at the travellers who crave to be 

In peace. 

You are one of the heartless souls 

Crafting dark magic and punching holes,

In paper-thin walls in a cold house where,

Psychopaths occupy the rooms and the corridors

They are nonbelievers, masterful weavers, 

Of hatred. 

This drug owns my life 

You said it would calm me

And increase my stride to a promised land,

Where optimism would rail against the grain 

Of sincerity and block out every sinew of pain. 

I am not a master of my own destiny 

You heard me speak honestly 

About the trappings I feel 

The walls in a dusty apartment 

Melting into me and shrouding out my desires. 

This gold ring means nothing to you or me 

It was a statement, at some point in our lives 

We had an understanding 

An innocent conversation regarding love 

It is now closed behind lies and profanity. 

I cannot sense a revolution or a spark of truth,

All I feel in my heart is loss and jolted blood

A myriad of dark thoughts fills my mind, 

And your face keeps me sick to my stomach 

Though it is art, clearly photogenic, 

It draws out warning signs. 

And this is it 

A swan song moment 

Where dreams ignite memories 

And when your taste evaporates from my 

Mouth.


Mark McConville is a freelance music journalist from Scotland who has written for many online and print publications. He also likes to write dark fiction and his poetry chapbook Lyrics From The Chamber will be released by Close To The Bone in August 2021. 

5 poems by Laura Stamps

Poetry

TO BE LOVED

Coming back from the grocery store, on a Sunday

morning, my husband driving, me in the passenger

seat, talking about something, I can’t remember what,

we reach the top of Harbison bridge when I see

a kitten, just six or seven weeks old, dart like a flash

of tabby out of the bushes into heavy traffic, into

the wheel of an oncoming car, bounce off, terrified,

and begin to drag its injured body toward the other

side of the bridge, while I scream for my husband

to STOP THE CAR, while I leap out, while I dodge

traffic, cars screeching to a halt to keep from hitting

me until I reach the kitten (finally!), scoop it up

in my arms, dash back to the car, jump in, cuddling

the frightened babycat to my chest, while my husband

yells: “What should we do!” and I shout: “Take me

to the Emergency Vet!” since it’s Sunday and my vet

is closed, but even though I spread a fabric grocery bag

on my lap to make a soft bed for it, and even though

I shower it with love and assurances of a long life,

the little tabby passes away before we reach the end

of the street, so we turn around and drive home,

where I hold a beautiful funeral for this sweet feral

kitten to let it know without a doubt in those last

moments and in death it was loved, it was loved,

it was loved by me, and always will be.


BE NOTHING

My big tabby cat, Chester, follows me everywhere.

Chester doesn’t meow like other cats. He chirps.

Like a bird. Only not. I sink into the plump cushions

of the sofa to decompress after a long day at work.

Chester jumps in my lap and rests his head on

my hand. “I’d like to discuss something with you,”

I say, scratching the sweet spot beneath his chin.

He chirps in response. “I saw the most interesting

thing online today,” I say. “BE NOTHING. It’s

a famous quote. But I’ve never heard it before.

What do you think it means?” Chester rolls over

to expose his stomach. Chirp, chirp. I thread

my fingers through his soft belly fur, while I roll

the idea of being nothing over and over in my mind.

Be nothing. Not something. No attachments. No

baggage. Nothing to cling to. Nothing to lose.

Detach, detach, detach. Float free. Like a loosed

balloon. Up, up. Away. Like a planet riding

the gentle waves of space. No expectations. No

pressure. Floating, floating. Away. My shoulders

relax, and all my muscles sigh with relief. “How

can this be?” I say to the cat, leaning down to kiss

the field of silk between his ears. “How can the

thought of being nothing make me feel so light

and free if I don’t know exactly what it means?”

Chester looks up at me, my cat who never

overthinks, his eyes tranquil pools of peace.

Chirp, chirp. “Oh,” I say. “I see.”


CAT MANIA

When I was eating lunch, when I wasn’t paying

attention, Honeysuckle jumped on the kitchen

counter and crawled into a plastic trash bag.

Always hungry. Always looking for treats.

Always curious. Finding nothing but an empty

spinach can, she backed out through the handles

of the bag. When she jumped from the counter

to the floor, the bag followed, one handle wrapped

around her neck, the spinach can slamming into

her back. Terrified a monster had attacked,

she galloped out of the kitchen, through

the living room, up the stairs, down the stairs,

over furniture, under furniture, faster and faster,

the spinach can smacking her back with every step,

barreling toward Chester, who fled, horrified

at the sight of the bag flying above Honeysuckle

like a punishing angel. Lover of all things

chase-able, Jeremiah joined in, chasing the bag,

as it chased Honeysuckle, as she chased Chester,

as Chester ran for his life, as the house

deteriorated into collateral damage. Finally,

the handle broke, Honeysuckle and Chester

collapsed, Jeremiah performed his happy-

dance to celebrate the thrill of the chase, and

I laughed and laughed until my jaws ached.

You have to make room for joy in your life.


WHY AM I HERE?

1.

Here I am at PetSmart. Me and my empty cart, looking at all

the things you’ll need if you adopt a dog, because my best

friend adopted a dog. She loves that dog. She said I need a dog.

She said if I come to PetSmart, see all the cute dog products,

I’ll fall in love with the idea of adopting a dog too. Except,

I’m a cat person. I’ve always been a cat person, and that

will never change, so why am I here?

2.

I’m still at PetSmart, wandering down one aisle after another,

looking at dog products to make my best friend happy. The

friend who wants me to adopt a dog, who forgot I grew up

with cats. I’ve always had cats. I have a cat now. I love

my cat. I need to tell my dog-loving best friend this isn’t

going to work. It isn’t. Just. Not. Working.

3.

I don’t need to adopt a dog. I just need to leave. I am

leaving. I’m leaving this empty cart behind. And walking

out. I’m walking out of PetSmart without any dog supplies.

I’m walking out without adopting a dog. I’m a cat person.

Cats make me happy. Happy is good. I don’t need a dog.

I just need to leave. I’m a cat person. And I always will be.


TANGERINE DREAM

There’s a corner in my hairdresser’s salon just for books.

Two bookcases full of novels. Mostly romances. Used

paperbacks from the flea market. She sells them to us

for a dollar each. Something to read while she cuts and

styles our hair. The dollars go into a coffee can on top

of one of the bookcases. Once a month she takes the

coffee can to the flea market to buy more romance

novels. It’s a strategy that works. For all of us. Next to

the bookcases is a cat tree. Also from the flea market.

Also used. This is where Oscar lounges all day, his

favorite place to nap. Oscar is a ginger cat with the most

unusual fur. It shimmers a vibrant shade of tangerine.

He’s a tangerine dream. No one knows where Oscar came

from. He just appeared at the shop one day and stayed.

That was five years ago. Now he’s the shop cat. The cat

that naps. All day. On Monday afternoon I walk through

the door of the salon, select a paperback, drop my

dollar in the coffee can, pet Oscar, and sit in an empty

swivel chair. “What can I do for you today?” my

hairdresser says. “This,” I say, pointing at what I want.

She covers my body with a big plastic apron. “Are

you sure?” she says. “Yes,” I say. “This is what I need.”

Tying the apron ribbons securely around my neck, she

pumps up the chair with her foot. “Okay,” she says,

“Let’s do it!” After my fiancé left me at the altar, after

I recovered from the resulting funk, I decided to shake

things up. That’s what today is about. That’s what

I need. Three hours later she whirls my chair around

to face the mirror. “Done,” my hairdresser says.

A masterpiece! No longer drab brown, my hair glows

like a ripe tangerine. Like a sizzling sunset. The flaming

coals on a grill. A blazing book of matches. The flare

of a candle. Now my hair is the same shimmering

shade of tangerine as Oscar’s fur. Now I’m a tangerine

dream too. Just what I wanted. Just what I need.

“It’s purrrrrrfect,” I say. She laughs.


Laura Stamps is a narrative poet. Books and chapbooks: THE YEAR OF THE CAT, IN THE GARDEN, CAT DAZE, TUNING OUT, and more. Winner of the Muses Prize. Recipient of 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Shortlisted in the Loft Books Poetry Competition. You can find her every day on Twitter: @LauraStamps16.

The Waking Up by Joan García Viltró

Punk Noir Magazine

All the little furry beasts

on the vast plains of earth;

all the birds that cling to branches, the birds of prey

from their eyries up on the crags,

and the scavengers perched;

all the wriggly fish osmosing the flesh of seas—

but not the sharks that never sleep—;

all that zillion squirmy, creepy crawlies

that brave their way through the whole mycelial mesh,

that worm their way up to the light—

I recall I used to fancy myself the Light

once, or a tiger enlightened the night before

in the midst of a rainy hunt,

or waking up a bug on a shiny white shelf,

or in day care to the chrome beam of a robot—;

all that insane amount of energy invested

in opening their tiny obsidian pupils

one day           will burn the air off this planet:

how do they manage

when it’s nothing but their craving to sleep their dream on?


Joan García Viltró is a teacher and poet based in Cambrils, on the south Catalan coast. His poems are populated by Mediterranean characters and mythologies, and reflect his concern with Nature struggling under human pressure. He curates a Twitter list, @joangv66/Poetry Matters, and reads poems on IGTV, joangv66.ig.

I GOT THE BLUES SO BAD MY BLUES GOT THE BLUES by DuVay Knox

Poetry

My life is STUCK on the Blues.

I cant CRY the Blues.

Away.

I cant EAT/The Blues.

Away.

I cant SLEEP/The Blues.

Away.

I cant SHIT/The Blues.

Away.

I cant FUCK/The Blues.

Away.

Cuz the BLUES are….

Real/Shit.

Authentic/Stank.

Smelly/Funk.

Cumming out yo Pores.

The Blues aint a FIGMENT of Yo Imagination.

The BLUES are….

Inconvenient/Truth.

Rejection/By/Sertain/Peeple.

The BLUES wannabe Yo FRIEND.

FOREVER.

The BLUES wanna take Up Yo TIME.

Becuz the Blues….

are SELFISH.

The Blues are jealous like-a-muthafucka:

The Blues are JEALOUS of yo HAPPINESS.

The Blues are Jealous of yo DESIRE.

The Blues are Jealous of yo VIRTUE.

The Blues….

are SUSPICIOUS.

The Blues are Suspicious of KINDNESS.

The Blues are Suspicious of GOOD INTENTIONS.

The Blues dont TRUST NOBODY or NO THING.

The BLUES wanna Accompany You….on the RIDE of Yo Life.

And The Blues dont care if U dont have SPACE for Them in Yo life–cuz The

Blues will ride on the bottom of Your god-dam SHOES while U Kick up Dust

as U trudge round HOMELESS.

Cuz The Blues dont CARE as long as The Blues — kan be WIT You/INSIDE

You/ON You/EMBRACE You/LOVE You.

The Blues just wanna: LIVE wit U/DIE wit U.

The Blues dont wannabe left alone.

So The Blues wanna: Cause Yo DEATH

Then….

Leave You Alone in yo casket/In the Dirt/While it finds sumbody ELSE To be

Friends Wit.

–AND BE THE BLUES.


DuVay Knox is originally from the Mississippi Delta inclusive of New Oreleans and the greater deep south. Now lives in New Orleans’ Sister City, St. Louis, Missouri. He specializes in writing flash and microfiction stories as well as gritty, urban-driven black pulp fiction novellas.

Happily married by Tim Frank

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

Her schoolfriend texts, he’s an old man and he’s using you.

He’s my baby, she says, as prisms of light glance off her diamond ring onto the cloud white wallpaper.

Her friend says, look at it this way. If he had no money and you were ugly, what then?

That thought hangs in the air as he slides up beside her in their honeymoon bed. She admires the infinity pool outside and the vineyard beyond. He feels her up, then moves his hands towards her throat.

She swallows, then smiles.

There’s no way out. She doesn’t want one.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Bourbon Penn, Eunoia Review, Maudlin House and elsewhere. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal.