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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Entries in poetry (15)

Saturday
Feb092019

Are You Queen Of Heaven?

This is a new thing we tried to learn.

We dreamed a whole summer away.

My cousins walked alongside the ledge.

When we were young we laughed and believed.

Now so many are gone we balk and flinch.

Sparrows amass in the charcoal margins.

The rest of us don't hardly ever blink. 

A cab came by, and I damn well flagged it.

No matter. No sense. I think I also floored it.

***

Grieve next time, but this time roll with it.

What's the word they use? Dissociation?

Don't you dare feel sorry for me. Okay? What happened to me happens to thousands of kids, maybe more. No. I want you to focus on the good parts of a bad tale.

I'm a grown man now, of course. This is a life I didn't choose but found. And it's really not so bad. 

Right? Do you remember? Since you were there too?

***

Easy words, not such easy thoughts. I don't even know if they noticed me as they pulled the car from the rocks, dripping like a murder weapon, and I stood on the road above, squinting into the decaying honey of a late August day.  

Chewing on human evil.

***

"You know they never found him?"

"Course."

"They found his car. Some of his DNA in the wreck. But no body."

"What else they find?"

"Someone else had been in the car too."

"Who? Whose?"

"No one anyone knows."

***

Yet.

***

Hail this tarnished Mary. If this is it, if this is the moment I die, I accept it. 

Pain is unconscionable, but love is paramount. My entire left side is ruinous, yet my ears and heart are eerily specific, hearing on a loop the empyrean throat of Isabel Bayrakdarian as she dreams Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 anew, while rains fall like dreary curtains on a sodden carpet. 

***

At the hour of my death, a dog came out of the dark woods. Now talk to me. Own me. Anagrams are loco. Keep on listening. Anagrams lure, okay. 

Stupid, goofball, elusive, this damnable struggle wants so badly to be told. 

***

Striding into the bar filled with the spirit of Dorothy Parker, I fell in actual love. She was a hiccup draped in ticklish grey at the very end of a smeared warmth.

***

The black dog insinuated himself into our family and moved with us to the cabin built of wood that hunkered in the shadows of giant firs. When we had visitors he vetted them, growling like unfathomable sonar at two men who tried to cross our threshold. Mostly he wagged his stiff tail like an emotional rudder that ached to proclaim happiness. Yet he was never fooled. And we chased those particular men away with the assuredness, the quiet promise of violence, the unspoken quenching of some awful complex thirst.

In the endless gnomic bar of Dorothy Parker.

***

These colors. So subdued yet so attendant. I'm unleashed into the street, and alert I bounce then thrust my feet atop the running board and launch into the seat. Then I drive. I am a woman, driving. In the nineteen forties. Away from a massacre.

***

Darting on and off I-5 an hour south of the Canadian border, Koma Kulshan's dusky peak implacable beyond. Dream our common place in this commonplace place. Here I knew a woman with a mouth like yours. Exceptional. Magnetic. Even her brows were freighted with meaning. I drove on and off the interstate like a firefly, headlights lighting each lost tendril I stumbled upon, blunt visions of Econolodge and myriad locations more faceless yet. A kaleidoscope of bleary shelters, arranged hierarchical, like pantheons of gods, sacred and senseless, screamed from the overlooked backdrop.

***

It's a silent avalanche patient atop some empty peak.

This thing started toward me the moment I was born. Something sleek and inaugurated by my own insensate launch. It's coming fast, like teeth. Cold, exposed, like beholden jaws. 

Starved. Indebted. Imminent. Adamant.

***

You. No other. Please tell me the same. Please.

O enchantress, O my dreadful queen of desolation, did you ever hold on as tightly again as you held on to me? What yet squirms in the folds of your recall? Who will have the wherewithal to abridge this appalling tale? Will anyone? Where is the dog from the woods when we need him? Where is Ms. Parker? Love, life, music as sung by a child? The wind wrapping scarves of mist around skeletal branches? The cavernous indictment of silence where birds and insects once chirped? Where has it all gone? Where have you all gone? And where indeed am I? 

Friday
Dec282018

Reckoning

"All that happened after was predicated on before."

I came upon the group gathered in the blue twilight, silhouetted atop a ridge, the half moon rising behind them. The coming night crept in silently, and the gathering was silent too. A gentle scene, though I knew if they saw me they would kill me. Without words they stayed awhile, lingering in the quiet grain of the air, and I held my place below, hidden by a great stone and a small grove of aspen, whose song was muted by the absence of any wind. This was dry land, and no rains came that night either. 

Why did I linger? That's simple; I needed something from them. But no, truer still—they had something of mine, and I wouldn't be leaving till I could balance that ledger at last.

When they left the bluff, filing down a narrow rocky trail on its flank, I stayed in place until they'd returned to their camp. Then I climbed the trail myself in the vast silence of that star-blessed night. It took less than a minute to find my daughter's footprint in the soft dirt, the extra toe on her right foot a private sigil.

***

"On the nature of daylight."

This world. It's sumptuous. It's freighted. Wherever you can, cook things in the surplus juices of the last ingredient.

***

Once I knew she was there, I closed in the next dusk. Waited a drawn-out moment.

Soon, she wandered near the perimeter and I hissed our reptile code, and she stopped in her tracks and hissed back after a beat and came to me.

"I found you," I said.

"You did," she whispered.

The horizon crackled with something bright and infected.

"Ready to leave?" I asked.

When she didn't reply, my heart skipped two full beats, and something buzzed in my brain pan. I repeated my question, and she still didn't say anything, her foot with the extra toe dug into the sandy dirt. 

I looked at her face and willed her great brown eyes to stay open and gaze at mine, and I give her credit, because she made sure they did. Respect is a strange animal; I felt it steal into the clearing of my heart and force hope into the crowding bush, while love crouched unmolested. I sort of almost got it. I knew that loss and grief were boiling thunderheads amassing in belligerent ranks beyond the next ridge and the next, someplace way ahead, awaiting me nonetheless. 

I didn't even know what sound to make. I brushed her small and bony hand with my own tentative reach, like the soft and flickering wings of a moth, and something happened inside my chest, and I saw tears fall in small beads from those nut brown eyes, and I left, and I never looked back, though I wanted to look back and squeeze her with the entirety of my raw and shrinking heart.

***

Why do we come here? Better yet, why do we stay? For the light and shadow at play on a woman's hands. For the nighttime murmur of a dreaming child. For the boughs laden, the twilight fading. For the huddle of warmth at the eye of the storm. For the room at the end of the couch with all the feverish cousins. For the eloquence of silence in the wake of ferocity. For tender care. For sweet triumphant justice. 

For the enraptured.

We are all poets. Troubadours of love. Now write me yours. Write us ours. And always, always try to go in the unbroken strength of peace. 

Saturday
Oct202018

La tristesse durera toujours

 

“La tristesse durera toujours” — Vincent Van Gogh

 

Blown across a frozen lake, two dead birds reach a shore piled like cake

and drop,

light as hollowed tin, tumbled as ice-clad laundry,

blank as cataracts, bereft as dawn-shed snakeskins.

 

Something within the world creaks,

and crows 

grumble along the margins

like long-abandoned women.

What is this tale? Is it happy? Grim?

Sad as a splintered cane propped in some bleary corner?

 

The sadness will last forever.

 

Will these harmonies suffice? Will

beauty walk alongside the righteous?

Art and love be adequate in this, our

harmless asides, these aimless, ageless

Instagram sins?

 

La tristesse durera toujours.

 

An engine cries a trail of smoke, shed

like the greyest tears, 

left by the most

colourless 

of impudent

faces.

 

Could you tell a tale of anything? Of

windbreaks and breakwaters, of

cheese plates and lovers’ 

furtive reunions, 

all these faked aches? Hold my aspen hand,

trembling amid this tiny crisis, and

steel yourself for the

cataclysms

to come. 

 

A bird dreams its shadow

on whitewashed walls.

Wakeful things decline to notice. 

 

Oil spills leak and

the world cries

ever more echoes.

 

The sadness will last forever.

 

They worked on trains and chimney stacks,

climbed up walls, rode steaming tracks,

handed out tickets, soon foresaw

the luck of the Irish, the attack 

of the eye-rash, the unblinking ruins

of war.

 

Spurn this like you spurn

most everything.

 

We’re in the centre of a room

bathed in gold, streamed like precious

sentiment, delivered by facsimiles

of the sun. What, oh what, I beg,

is our name?

 

La tristesse durera toujours.

 

***

 

Image: "Landscape with a Carriage and a Train" — Vincent Van Gogh

 

Friday
Jul062018

Fury

She is bound on a cold stone floor in a spare cottage by a crag, the wind a tuneless piccolo through cryptic slits.

A flurry of dark birds arc jagged across a slate sky past twilight.

The ink upon her arms and chest echo both flocks and sundown: three tiny boiling hearts on her inner right forearm and a stutter of crows below her clavicle, above her breast.

Outside, some black and odious structure silhouetted on the cliff edge: pitiless, stark, and mannish.

Pricks. If they are going to deem her a witch, then she will damn well rise witchlike.

A beetle meanders by her feet pursuing crumbs, flakes, specks.

These are fragmentary things, these moments, what she sees, hears, smells, feels. Nothing good will happen if she resists, but things far worse are pledged by her compliance.

The beetle is by the wall now, still seeking and vacuuming tiny morsels. She envies its autonomy, its thralldom to its own rudimentary will.

Her will is more wilt than heft. She stares between her legs at the stone and shudders. Imagines something ludicrous. Some unruly erection. Resistance. She must resist. Weakness now is unconscionable.

She is a woman not some failed man.

As if in answer, heart all slashed and ragged, Blossom appears in the murky air, her friend long slain by similar hands, twirling a familiar dance.

Speaks.

"Oh, Blanche, this is it. The inevitable. The moment you decide how to leave this aching world. I urge you to choose well. Its about you now, not them. They are filled with impotence, choked redundant by hate and unwarranted envy. Believing they're the heart, they are the true outcasts of our tribe. The overarch, the arc is in our favour. Even when they kill us, they don't win."

"Yeah, yeah. You always knew how to speak, my poet. I appreciate the pep talk, hon, but I ain't ready to die."

Sudden silence. No sound. The wind itself has swooned. Even the surf has ceased its assault on the rocks. No Blossom, no beetle, no beating heart. For a moment, no battery. A hush. This is the cold edge at the end of things, the blood loss, the muffled aftershocks.

However grim the lookout, love—love—is the thing.

The throng is coming, my brave and blissful amour, with their whetted instruments and their senseless rage, frail and pitiful as the keening of birds.

Friday
Jun082018

Crime Watch

It's always windy now; there's never any peace. They tell me the local wolves are returning. I say good. That's good. Find the dens. Go ahead with your goddamned crimes.

Since words are such distant cousins and not the only language we know, I doubt that words themselves will suffice for the telling of this tale, but let's try.

Where did I come from? I cannot even know. I woke on a trail favoured by green. Why do we highlight the fox, the bat, the buffalo? I feel her palm settle over my wrist, and we bow beneath the wax-green arbor. We are stitched into the tapestry absent our consent.

In case you missed it, I repeat: our assent means nothing to the world.

An old woman watching the haze coughed up by the eventide. I used to sit here and watch whales. I haven't seen a whale in twenty years. The ocean itself is a heaving grey behemoth with cloudy eyes, redolent of slate. Imagine wet dust.

My name is Millie Trench. This was my home for three score years. You think your avarice enables you to up and lay a hand on it? Let's talk about that greed. We've grown accustomed to it, and you've grown used to exercising it in the service of politics that sound more like faith.

You overreached. We all did.

We pranked our friends but never copped to it. We ran through evening streets convincing ourselves we'd seen a visitation. A spindly future in a window. A light in the deepening dark above the rooftops. And we ran, alive in our fabricated terror, lungs swelling our ribcage nobility, skinny thighs pistoning the liquid cylinders of our adolescent hips. We were mercury, platinum, and we ran until our terror became real. 

Entire lifetimes have gone by since then.

We never imagined the coming brittleness, the years of compromised ligaments, of tendons stretched beyond their elastic bounds, of creaking bones or the quiet unearthly skies.

***

I know you'll come and cry with me if I ask. I don't like to impose. My heart purrs inside a hummingbird, fluttering as my host drinks crimson nectar from a feeder. My genitals are something else. You really need to witness them, but I won't insist. (I might no longer be human.) We slip inside and rest against the ink-black geometry of panels. Pen and ink on rough-scratch sketchpad partial to yellowing. Let me draw you. Your lines inspire me. Your fervent mortal heft. Pull off the interstate, Bridie, let's take stock of this and make some visual music if we have an hour or so to try.

A raven lives in the tower and laughs. She is the plainclothes inquisitor dripping warm song on all of us. When we forge such camouflaged tunes and try to hide our hungry robes, it's like listening to the thirst of birds.

Open the door. It's a rundown bar not far from the coast where few now bother to attend. Maybe it's a gentle church of liquor and gambling losses, where a thinning congregation no longer dreams of anything like redemption. Their prayers are holes and loss. They hope only to escape cruelty.

I found my way this night to Millie Trench, and she gives me that nod old people know is better than some document or paper. (Old folk are the only whites conversant with that nod.)

We sit silent before the silent sea. Now and again, a man up the beach laughs amicably, a sugar grain cascade. 

Where are all the gulls?

All she needs, my dusty compatriot, is her one last friend to reaffirm some normal standard of American life. Even fake it if I have to. Barbecues, beaches, campfires, places we watch out for bears. Lights streaking in solstice skies. A dream of an eternal park in eternal dusk starlit by fireflies, and the laughter of children singing like a secret creek.

A horse fly, solid and glinting blackish and distracted by its mission creep, bothers the shore lurkers, hoping to drive them into panicked mea culpas, circling their dim crimeheads like a winged and sable pecan as they rear and flap, preening and twitching without hope of exoneration. There's Jodi in Walmart with her gas cans, the hurtling bespattered basement steps, the gunshots into the crowded van, sex zombies, plaster casts, child pageants, lies, race, sex, even hope. 

My mind uncouples, forgets itself. Bring them through the prize draw routes, lottery types and winning hands, clear passages now suited to the epic ruins of the day. I would like to find the corpse of a champion and unearth a feeble decoder, witness the death throes of loyalty. Spinning it all circular. 

Are we enthralled? From which side of the bay do we look? I live to suck out every thread, each loose end, and give it if not its name at least some character, a man who polishes combat boots using only green and now this lightest brown. It's a start, pale though it is. 

I wanted to have the last word with all of them and gesture as they approached, as he and his friends whooped and hollered, yelling and high-fiving my people, promising to haul each other up and out. I never knew his name. Was he the man who laughed? Could he have been the wolf? Things will be elided here, redacted and stashed away, quite possibly forever.