chinatown syndrome – kevin ridgeway

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I got so drunk
I thought the
the manager
of the Chinese
takeout was
my psychiatrist
and I told him my
recent symptoms
and he increased
the dosage of my
fortune cookies,
but I was not
compliant and
barely even gave
General Tsao
a chance to kick
in and my bags
of unused ancient
medicine left an
oil stain on that
that nicotine yellow
hotel carpet with
my other unopened
prescriptions for
sushi and many
other potions from
far reaches of the
world colliding
several stories
beneath us on
the metropolitan
island streets
that breathe dirty
steam we are too
weak to breathe
in as we overdose
on over the counter
bullet proof glass
medicine with very
unpredictable side
effects that make
us hide here in
search of the
healing energy of
an uncharted sky.


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Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press). Recent work has appeared in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly, Gasconade Review, The American Journal of Poetry and So it Goes:  The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, among others.  A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.

Top Photo: Khachik Simonian

SBGS December

art – shannon elizabeth

Shannon Elizabeth Gardner is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a Bachelors in Studio Art and a Minor in Art History. Her interest in horror and the macabre came about while exploring nature and the paranormal. The work explores the natural and organic process of death, evoking empathy for decay. She believes life is beautiful when left to fate, leaving art to chance assists the viewer to witness beauty hidden within imperfections. Her process appreciates nature’s process and discovers the earth’s imperfect beauty. The ethereal mood of her work reaches the extreme and address the taboo.

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Decay

Watercolor and Ink on Paper

4×4

Decay is an evident part of life. The use of stippling accurately renders the appearance of a technical dental drawing. The illusion the dots creates a unique texture that imitates the look of nature.

 

Forgotten Daisy

Ink on Paper

4×6

The daisy is a sacred flower representing the Norse goddess of love and fertility, Freya. In Norse mythology Freya, while symbolizing birth, also symbolizes death. Daisies are often gifted to new mothers in blessings of new beginnings. In this piece the perky and happy appearance of the flower is contrasted with the black ink and white voids creating an ethereal mood. While the daisy represents purity and positive perspectives, the viewer gets an uncanny feeling as if something has gone awry. 

 

Time Hurts

Ink on Paper

8×6

In this piece the use of dots creates an impression of a technical drawing. Stippling creates clusters of value implying crisp texture and depth. The use of stippling imitates the changes in life through time.

 

Let’s Circulate

Ink and Colored Pencil on Paper

8×10

Can you feel every system operating through your body? Many complex components running simultaneously in conjunction with each other. Isn’t it miraculous how we work?

 

Solstice

Watercolor and Ink on Paper

4×6

The daisy in this piece symbolizes strength through death. Often gifted to mothers of newborns, this flower was captured during its last days. With the blessings of new beginnings this piece replaces the usual perky and happy appearance of the flower. A shadow of black ink drips from the top poisoning positive perspectives.

 

Warrior

Watercolor and Ink on Paper

8×8

Life drawing is a beautiful exercise. The intimate relationship between model and artist is an enthralling experience that continues to inspire throughout one’s lifetime.

 

Two are Better

Watercolor and Ink on Paper

20×30

In my work I practice the Asian technique of Wabi Sabi; the aesthetic within imperfections. I strive to explore the unearthed beauty and imitate the natural imperfections. The use of watercolor and India Ink creates beauty within imperfections while creating an earthy grunge aesthetic. The use of India Ink and Watercolor creates an ominous burnt feeling that attributes to the beauty of the worn aesthetic. 

 

Tormented

Ink on Paper

4×6

With my admiration of nature, death, and decay my work strives to explore the aesthetic within imperfections and unearthed beauty of line work and stippling. These techniques imply and imitate natural imperfections. The depth of this piece created with lines illustrates the depth of trauma.

SBGS December

 

two poems + a video – hayden dansky

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Grave Nap

 
On the nights
with no degrees left
I tremble when
I think of you
cold and alone lying
on the dark earth where
her bones lay to rest
beside the bones of
her first son
I know you went there
as soon as you were
old enough to drive,
16 and your license was your
ticket to the graveyard.
Finally free
to be alone
in your obsession
Finally free
to grieve
Dear child, and you were
a child.
When your brother
was this age
he was your parent,
died a child.
You can fall
asleep with your family
every night
if you want to
think of them
before you dream
You do not have
to remember where
their flesh was buried

so long as you
let yourself melt
into their ghostly embrace
You can fall
asleep alone
if you want to
give yourself rest
from the memories
squeezing themselves
into your head
You can carry
yourself as you
wake in this world
if you want to
regulate yourself
help yourself
hold yourself
But you will never be
held by your mother again.
Your truth is in death
where your mind
will never go.
Let that be true for
just tonight.
Dream softly of
all that is left
on this earth
waiting
to decay

 

Funeral

 

At my funeral
there will be
only cut lilies
as decoration
so that everyone
will spend their time wondering
almost entirely
about the cut lilies.
How something so beautiful
could smell so bad;
how something
still living, can be dying,
or how something already dead
can still be living.
How long the liminal space
will last for them as humans,
how long it must feel for a lilly,
and if their perspective of
time even matters if
the process of death
is eternal
for every living one.
If we are all just living things dying
or dying things still living
sped up by life
sped up by work
sped up by stress
sped up by fear
and fear
and fear
and fear.
Their hands will touch
my face and they will
swallow the idea of me
Soak in the void
between the present

and imaginary daydreams
that could have happened
between us
if I had only
stayed alive
Trapped in the space
between reality
and dreams
And they will wonder
if it matters
or if it’s all about their perspective
afterall.
If it’s all about what they desire.
And they will wonder
why they ever fed
anything but desire
and pleasure
and love
and hope
Why they did anything
but move towards justice,
demand another world,
smell flowers
uncut,
and pray.

Kiss my forehead
and leave again
and begin again.

 


Head shot 2018Hayden Dansky is a transgender nonbinary rural queer kid trying their best to not to be smothered by capitalism. Their poetry is a process of letting their flesh breathe, of finding oneself and sharing a body that is always in process. Their writing explores the depths of shame, darkness, queerness, addiction and grief. They create and collaborate with local experimental musicians and dancers to create performances that encompass multiple disciplines. They are also a food justice organizer and work to create more participatory and accessible food systems in Boulder, CO.

Photo: Zane Lee

three poems – brian matta

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Trash Bags
Piled on the curb
bloated with
semi used
tennis shoes,
unwashed socks,
And flannel shirts
with buttons missing.
Slouched against the sky
in the afternoon heat.
Becoming a new world sun dial
tolling to the neighbors
a new marking of time-
John is dead

SBGS December

Nostalgia
I wish I could bring you back to life
just to watch you kill yourself again
instead of being around
your loitering ghost
as stacks of unworn clothes
and bric-a-brac for me to trip over
because if you were alive
we’d just practice twisting the knife
in each others back and not pick up
the phone when it rang
like normal families
but we can’t
so there’s no point reminiscing
I guess I’ll start cleaning up
your mess
as you just lay around

SBGS December

Impotent
My brother kill himself today
blew his head off
well not off but close
and when I found him
his body reminded me
of a vase I tipped and let
shatter to the ground
and no matter how much
I screamed he just looked
at me with that same vacant stare
I buried my brother today
and the fresh mound of dirt
reminded me of a beach on Cape Cod
me and my brother building a sand
castle and our father told us
we had built it to close to the shore
we knew he was right
but fuck him

SBGS December


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Brian Matta writes poetry and plays. He is published in Newtown Literary Review, No, Dear Magazine, and Brine Literary. 

ode to gold – jesse lee pacheco

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The moments I feel most lonely
are when I remember
I am not a coffee can full of gasoline

I am not a race car
in a black and white photograph
seemingly ripping a ditch into the universe
with a number etched into the side of my soul

I am not a prospector
chewing canary bones and digging for danger,
nor am I a coal miner
painting my skin daily
with the dankest of doom

I am not a boxer,
I am a punching bag
hanging in a sweat lodge
nailed to the blocks
forever waiting for the blank bullet
of a starter pistol

I have given into comforts
I have lost the panic of motivation
the friction of chattering teeth
no longer keeps me warm
my heart is glued back together

But where does that leave me?
This is not my first grave
This is not the first time I’m lamenting
a status that I never really had

I’m spinning off in every wrong direction
keeping my eyes peeled for the next
road of gold
The next masterpiece to dream
and steal
and squander

Until then, here I am
with another man’s lapels
in my clenched fists
in the middle of some house party
embarrassing myself to death


SBGS December

Jesse Lee Pacheco is a performance artist from Denver, CO. He’s a founding member of the Atlantic City arts collective, a group dedicated to exploring new artistic spaces and forms. Although he considers himself a multidisciplinary artist, poetry has a special place in his heart. He uses poetry to turn himself inside out, bringing his deepest parts to the surface. He would like to dedicate this piece to his brother Noah, for always believing in him.

Photo: Daniel van den Berg

a hawk cries katsu – john haworth

art

I tried to write this poem on a typewriter.
The typewriter must be broken.
A blank page eats my fingertips.
I keep hammering space,
the only key still barely functioning,
until more and more blank pages
stare me in the face,
contemplating
the taste of my tongue.
I would throw it all out the window
if it weren’t for pigeons
bearing psalms of peace and vanity.
Over my shoulder
Robert Bly sits at a council fire
jacking off the ghost
of his younger self
while screaming something
about grief.
He is joined by the ghosts of
Abraham Lincoln and Hamlet’s father,
who chastise him with
banshee like battle hymns
and marching orders.
I can hardly hear them all
above the noise
of falling bombs,
bombs failing to hit the mark,
exploding in the periphery.
Ink splatters the blank
pages and my lips.
It tastes of blood.
Without story,
how can we
speak of god?
The long line of my forebears
steals letters from my head

with red hands
that tattoo sin into my skin.
I have sent many characters in
pursuit of an all-father
only to watch them fall
into the belly of the beast
becoming trapped behind
cage-like typewriter keys
when the sword of Hamlet proves
stronger than my pen.
Lincoln can no longer spell tragedy
with that hole in his skull.
Overhead a circling hawk cries Katsu!
Its sharp talons reflect the sun
as it lets fall another bomb.
Impact. Detonation.
That which is whole explodes into chaos,
chaos becomes equation,
equation becomes form, and as the pieces
of the body fall back to earth
I see the words that have yet to be written:
The council fire is embers.
Robert Bly is still muttering under his breath,
but Lincoln has run out of lines to read
and the ghost of Hamlet’s father
rests avenged.
The pigeons peck them all to pieces and
carry away some blank pages.
In the silence I notice
a pencil behind my ear.
It is short with no eraser,
badly bitten.
I stole the pencil from a young
fisherman by the name of Manolin,
who in search of the Old Man
hauled the pencil in from amid

the wreckage of the Pequod,
where it had come to rest
upon the deck within the claws
of a murdered Albatross.
The pencil has changed many hands.
The typewriter is still broken,
but it no longer matters.
With this pencil I shall carve
words into the blank page before me.
Overhead a hawk cries, Katsu!

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John Haworth is a poet and writer in pursuit of a modern mythology. His work has appeared in Under the Devil’s Thumb, The Boulder Weekly, Spit Poet, and Braided Way. John is a self-educated bibliophile peering under every rock and twig for the answers to questions he can’t remember asking. He lives in Nederland Colorado and is not haunted by waters.

Photo: Ian Battaglia

mental regurgitation – juliet cook

art

1.

I was terrified of leeches when I was a girl. I was walking home from school with a boy who pointed at a hole in the ground and told me that bloodsuckers lived inside holes. When I got home, I asked my mom what a bloodsucker was. She informed me bloodsuckers were mutant worms that stuck themselves to your skin and sucked your blood and could not be pulled out with your fingers. She said the only way to get them out was to burn them.

I was extremely squeamish about blood and hellfire, and so the idea of having a big misshapen worm penetrating my flesh and swallowing my blood seemed like a horror movie scene. I saw myself fainting and falling down into a continually sucked pool of my own blood while burning in hell.

In my late teens, I found out about medicinal leeches.  When they had no idea how to treat hysterical females, they would insert the leeches into women’s vaginas, in an attempt to alleviate their mental disorders by having blood sucked out of their female parts.

Sometimes my memory exaggerates things, but I’m telling you what I remember. The bloodsucking leeches are stuck inside women’s vaginas. They are almost impossible to pull out.  Maybe that’s what it means to be a woman. Maybe you can’t control what’s stuck inside you and it will keep sucking and sucking and sucking the life out of you.

How in the hell would they remove a leech from a woman’s vagina? By sticking a cigarette inside her?  By inserting a gloved set of fingers  to probe and pry? Are there special medicinal instruments for extracting the leeches? Or for secretly inserting one inside of a woman forever?

2.

In my adult life, I still hate the gynecologist. I still worry about what might be inside me. But I’m not as squeamish about blood as I used to be. After all, menstrual blood clots have been blobbing themselves out of my vagina every month for close to 30 years, so I’m pretty used to internal blood baths.

If a leech attached itself to my body now, I think I’d be able to handle it and even take a series of photos, watching it suck enough blood until it fell off me. As a little girl, I had no idea they could ever get enough blood and fall off on their own. As a teenager, I had to investigate everything unusual on my own.

I found out that trying to remove a leech by burning is one of the least effective forms of removal, because not only does that maim or kill the leech, it also has much more potential to injure you. Even if the fire makes the leech fall off, first that injured leech will vomit the sucked blood out of its body and into your body. That bloody vomit will enter your wound.

Then the violent infection of your own wound will work its way into your womb and you will keep growing more and more infected leeches and popping them out of your vagina like a hideous infestation of babies shaped like giant worms or tiny malformed blood sucking penises.

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Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Photo: Erol Ahmed

unnamable – richard anderson

art

I slip from troubled dreams
into that half-asleep state
where nostalgia often visits.
A magical time of comfort,
suggestion, even whimsy,
where old realities intertwine
with imaginary tomorrows
and wistful impossibilities
becoming welcomed moments
a felicitous reprieve.
Too soon, always too soon,
the icy fingers of an emerging day
reach inside my reverie
gripping me like an insect
ensnared in the spider’s silk.
With desperate reluctance
I grudgingly submit,
the illusion dissipating
as mist to a warming wind.
Walking to another empty day,
I begin, with weary resolve,
to search a thousand yesterdays
for that dusty relic stashed
behind sparkling neon ornaments
of halcyon days and nights,
imperfect mementos of passersby,
even within the chain-draped sarcophagi
of those things best left untouched.
Maybe there will be something,
a recollection hidden or misplaced,
worthy yet of remembrance,
to make this day matter
enough to let me matter still.
But for every glint of light
there is a shadow clinging,
every joy countered by doubt,
each laugh a fresh tear,
any kindness an atrocity.
My search ends as treasure hunts do,

with frustration, angry distraction
and a deflating sense of futility.
Memories, it appears, only matter
to the rememberer in the end
and remembering anything alone
is so damn lonely.
As vivid dawn absorbs me
into encroaching radiance
the unnamable lust rises again.
I recognize it at once,
felt its dark caress before:
when the rocks far below
beckoned with enticing relief;
in the oncoming headlights
of another night traveler
or when this current chapter began
and I pursued it with such zeal.
But I was naïve and tentative
like a teenaged boy the first time.
I know much more now.
The prospect of a long life
filled with this kind of tomorrow
is much more terrifying to me
than an eternity with the dead,
kindred spirits always near
who lie upon me heavily
like a comfortable old sweater
on a chilly fall afternoon.
My thoughts turn to them.
I want to know what they know,
see what they’ve seen when
their forever moment drew them
into its unsympathetic embrace;
when, like frost under of rising sun,
fear and hatred fell away,
pain and worry ended.
I want to know what I’ll see.
Will they all be waiting?
Everyone I loved, wanted to love?
Will I, at last, be home?
I can’t really know
until I join them.

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Rick Anderson is incarcerated in Sterling Correctional Facility, Sterling Colorado, where he works in the library,. Writing poetry helps Rick endure the hardships of life in prison, and often returns him to his beloved nature.

art as rebellion – howie good

art

There are some rules, like to never wear shoes, that you just refuse to obey. You pick up a piece of wood and start to see it become a hand, but also stay a tree. At night you
anonymously paste drawings of giant babies around your neighborhood. The plaza is still named Generalissimo Francisco Franco, even though it’s over 40 years after the fall of the dictatorship. Gary says to you, “You better look at a gun; you don’t know what a gun really looks like.” So for Valentine’s Day he gets you a plastic AK-47. Pharaoh’s army falls back.

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Howie Good is the author of three recent collections, I’m Not a Robot from Tolsun Books, The Titanic Sails at Dawn from Alien Buddha Press, and What It Is and How to Use It from Grey Book Press.

Photo: Ashim D’Silva