“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

The Chamber Magazine
thechambermagazine.com
1

he’s staring into black oily water 
asks how much life i’ve got saved in my now 

it’s disappearing 
i sold some to everyone 
and they owe me for yesterday and the year before  

he puts out his shaking grip
i feed him a pinch and he blazes

so true floating in starlight 
walking on water with you last night 
with the pipe music from who-ever was below 
true and new and warm inside 

your beautiful face and body repeat 
and the way we held each other in the room at the end

was that the end of everywhere 
or just the beginning

how all of the fear of nothing 
and wondering where too from here 
disappear into space 
when the times are so here that the real is no longer the real 

that’s what’s so good about this
when the real is no longer the real

when we are only in us

2

some things mean more to me than what never was
this way i am now isn’t where i’m really at

honestly 

i am somebody 

you’d be surprised what i was doing before all this 
and i’ll get back to it again  
i know what i can do and be

and he hovers softly and i stare into the face 
of a soul like i was once 
where are you from actually 

he says from somewhere i could never be  
and for a moment i remember my other self 
when the world was still the world 
and the way to wander was all ok

and i was ok 

i wasn’t here once 
i could’ve kept doing it there 
been who i should’ve been

truth sits in current death count gone

realized or ignored

3

and he drifts to near the crying river 
it’s grey and the moon shines silver-blue 
in tune with slow deep singing 

far away

dancing never seen 

he says that it’s late and that we’ve got stuff to do
and why don’t we head off
and we crawl silently along the path to where he says
we must

we go and stop in slide 

together
him and me 

and a little bit of love 
is a little bit of love

in nowhere 

Stephen House has won many awards and nominations as a poet, playwright and actor. He’s received several international literature residencies from The Australia Council and an Asia-link residency. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press. He’s published often and performs his acclaimed monologues widely.






“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

The Chamber Magazine
thechambermagazine.com

Billie Jay Radio never thought the End of the World would look like this. His grandmother, a member of a weird cult, had gloomily foretold something far more impressive: horned beasts rising from the sea, raging locust hoards, falling stars, cosmic torrents of blood, spectacular angelic – demonic air battles. Great scenarios for a new disaster flick, but the reality of the actual apocalypse, as it unfolded, was quite different. First, there was the breakdown of shopping mall culture.

Shoppers could no longer browse freely through malls without being obstructed by merchandise–computers, TVs, furniture, stacks of Nike running shoes–dumped into the commons areas by clerks with vacant eyes and odd mouths that seemed to both snarl and smile. Rampant looting appeared to be in progress. Billie Jay thought of those old newsreels of the 60s urban riots he had seen in his history class. However, here the store employees were stripping their own shelves.  Even the manager of the local Salvation Army outlet was seen cleaning out his used clothing bins and hurling green polyester pants into growing piles of designer suits and dresses. When confronted by a mall security guard, the disheveled man only mumbled incoherently about “the end being near.”

 Billie Jay, however, knew there was a real problem when Ashley Baker, the normally very efficient waitress at his favorite upscale mall café, refused to take his order for a double latté, instead calling him a “fuck head who is wasting my time.” Then unleashing a stream of obscenities against Billie Jay—sparked by nothing in particular— she finished with a roaring insult: “And no body is going to tell you to ‘have a nice day’ for the end of days is at hand!” Again, there was the same weird look that he had seen on the faces of other mall employees, a bizarre mask of cruelty and cheerfulness.

Day after day, week after week a race of (otherwise normal looking) weirdos was emerging, dangerous, unpredictable, no longer knowing how to wish customers a nice day or caring about the expensive products they marketed to the well-heeled consumers.

 Soon there was an even more alarming trend. Customers, Billie Jay observed, no longer rushed frantically through the malls looking for bargains. While they could have in fact easily carted away looted state-of-the-art electronic hardware or designer suits, these ex- consumers merely shoved the items aside. Entire mall areas were thus cleared of abandoned merchandise to make room for wrestling matches, Frisbee throwing, dice games, kickboxing, and skateboarding (an extreme version that sought to run down women pushing baby strollers). The security guard, who had confronted the Salvation Army outlet manager for dumping old trousers, was now acting just as strangely, first warmly embracing random passersby, and then violently grappling them to the floor. Others leaped into the fray, until bodies were writhing in heaps like rugby scrums or mass orgies. The old scripts guaranteeing the stability and predictability of life were being lost to rampant social amnesia. This trend was even surfacing in Billie Jay’s professional life. As a seller of gentrified properties, Billie Jay once could count on at least greed as an absolute. Yet even that was slipping away. One couple insisted on negotiating a higher price, and then excused themselves right in the middle of the open house viewing to use the bathroom together. Disgusted by the flushing, giggling, and grunting sounds, Billie Jay waited outside. At least they immediately signed the contract for twice the list price (though he barely shook their damp hands).

Then one day (to make matters worse) the circus came to town. Curiously, though the performers never really seemed to perform, they were instead aimlessly wandering through streets causing traffic jams. Men and women in tights, with the stereotypical appearance of graceful high wire trapeze artists, made obscene gestures at the furious, swearing motorists. Jugglers, aggressively accosting pedestrians, deliberately scattered their balls on street corners causing a hazard. Yet the performers still angrily demanded what they called “entertainment user fees.” Puzzled, Billie Jay searched the internet–even read the newspapers and called the local arts center—for performance information but could find no evidence of any scheduled performance dates. Apparently, the circus was no longer really the circus but had changed into something else. What that was Billie Jay Radio would soon find out.

One afternoon while shopping cross-town at another mall not yet stricken by the strange anti-consumer madness, he observed a gang of clowns roaming through the parking lot. Some thin (indeed borderline anorexic), a few portly, others almost dwarfish, the clowns, their makeup streaming profusely like sweat, and baggy costumes hanging in dirty tatters, bellowed, shook their fists and scattered flyers. Billie Jay picked one up one and read it: The End of Days is upon us. Forget your old scripts and narratives. Everything is changing including the End of Days itself.

Cautiously, at a discreet distance, Billie Jay followed them into the mall (avoiding the slippery, buttery trail of their red and white grease paint). Squatting behind a large pot plant in the atrium, he watched one of the clowns–nasty scowl, bloodshot eyes and stained, pointed teeth emerging from behind his thinning makeup–enter the administrative offices.  Loud scuffling sounds, shouts, and then the clown burst out, waving a pistol at the neck of a scrawny, trembling man–farting uncontrollably from fear. His nametag read, Harold Sorrow, Customer Care Specialist.

With military-like precision, the clowns then marched their hostage through the parting crowds of oddly silent shoppers to the mall’s central commons where a platform, microphone, podium, and chairs had been set up amid the piles of consumer goods. While the lead clown still aimed his pistol at the now crying, still farting, customer care representative, his clownish cohorts mingled casually, as if networking at a cocktail party, among the onlookers, distributing the same ominous flyers. Cranking an erect arm up like a Nazi’s salute, the lead clown strutted, prodding his hostage, followed by his colleagues, up onto the stage. From one baggy, ragged pocket, he pulled a sheaf of paper while carefully still aiming the gun at the whimpering hostage who had curled up in the fetal position on the stage. The clown read in a thunderous voice:

“We are the Clowns from another dimension of reality here to announce that the human race has entered into a new stage: no longer can you count on even the most ordinary desire, hunger or need. Nor can you predict–or hope—that people will behave in any ‘normal human manner.’ In fact, your lives, all societies, the entire globe, as I speak, are lapsing into a series of unscripted pratfalls, thoughtless stunts, clownish blunders, random absurd acts–a ‘circus’ of sorts but one that is funny and dangerous, comical and brutal. In other words, once you paid admission to laugh at me and my ilk… (The clown paused, and waved at the other clowns who clumsily danced, made silly faces, then bowed to the mildly tittering audience) …. however, you will now rage at me for what I am about to do, ‘unexpected behavior’ (clown flashes a smirking smile) from a person normally paid a low wage to amuse the jaded public.(The clown shoots the customer care representative who squeezes into an even tighter fetal ball, then unfurls limply, blood trickling from the back of his neck.   The clown’s red eyes blazed even more fiercely. He bares pointed teeth. Growls escape from his foaming, wrinkled lips).

Very theatrical manner, Billie Jay noted mentally, smiling to himself, again still watching from behind a nearby pot plant. In case the Seven O’ Clock news would interview him later, he mulled over possible sound bites.

As if on cue, there were shouts and sounds of people scrambling and running. CNN camera operators were rushing toward the stage, but gathering even more speed galloped by it, ignoring the bleeding customer service rep’s body and the mad clowns, who were now singing obscene songs at the top of their lungs while the crazed, laughing audience clapped along. Curious as well as bored with the meaningless scenes before him, Billie Jay dashed after the CNN crew, who by now were filming scantily clad models in front of the mall’s Victoria’s Secret outlet. Perhaps if he could tell the film crew what he had witnessed, he could cleverly work in some references to his real estate business. Finding more deranged customers who insisted on paying above market prices would be super. Maybe this new weird, apocalyptic world would not be so bad after all.


Thomas White’s poems, fiction, and essays have appeared in online and print magazines in Australia, the United States, and Canada. In addition, he is a Wiley-Blackwell Journal author, and contributor to various non-literary journals on topics ranging from the meaning of Evil to reality as a computer simulation.  

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

     Come rain or sunshine, John Connors wore the same blue denim jacket to school every day. It was a gift from his father when he came home for a visit last Christmas. The jacket had an inside pocket where there was a letter inside an envelope. The address on the envelope: Mr. Joseph Connors, The Green Road, Ballysimon, Limerick, Ireland. On the back of the envelope, the return address: Mr. Michael Connors, 34 Weston Street #4B, London, England. His grandfather gave the boy the letter to hold it and fill his naive young heart with hope.

     “Grandpa, why does Daddy have to go and live in England?” the boy asked his grandfather.

     “Because that’s where the jobs are and he’s a fine, good carpenter with no work here abouts,” the grandfather replied.

     The boy didn’t know much about his mother. It was not talked. He only knew, “She ran off with the tinkers…too young, too wild.”

     The Green Road was named after the Green family; farmers who lived on that road years ago.

The square, two story house was still there, but abandoned, overgrown with vines of ivy, since old Mrs. Green passed away. Vandals had not yet discovered it. The front entry door, and windows shut down tight.  There was a gray stone wall to front, mottled white with lichen, and a large iron gate with plywood attached, to keep people from seeing in.  

     On his way to and from school the boy passed, not seeing, until one day, the gate open just a crack. It called out to him… John, come visit. He squeezed through. There were out houses; stalls for horses, a hay barn made of four metal stilts with a rust ridden galvanized roof. All falling into ruin, but there was something else; something lives, something watching. His skin began to crawl. He backed away. He went to school.

     Inside the house the watcher watched. He watched the boy through the tattered curtain lace. He had been waiting for him. He set the trap. “He’ll be back.” the watcher said aloud  to the emptiness.

     A two room school in a one street village. The girl was there. When they passed, she smiled at him. Dolores, I would die for you, as her green-blue virgin eyes seared his virgin soul.

     Coming home from school, he came again to the Green house. The gate  still open, he entered. There was an old rusted milk tankard lying sideways. He sat on it, as if to ponder. On the floor of the yard, a large crack ran from the main house to a drain hole in the center. A cluster of dandelion grew in the drain hole, bright green leaves and yellow flowers in stark contrast to the gray-black cobblestone floor.

      He took the letter out, to read again. ‘Dear Father, I will be down in your country next week. I will stop in to see my son, for his  birthday, what is he now, twelve? My gosh, he’s almost a man. See you then. Love, Mike.’

     “To see my son,” The boy said the words aloud. “To see my son…I love her.” His words echoed all around the empty yard followed by a long silence. He felt a chill, like something cold caressed him. Suddenly, a wind came up as a large black cloud swallowed the evening sun. He got up to leave, to run…he heard a noise. Someone was in the house.

     Run John, run…but it was too late. An older man was at the back door. They stared at each other.

     The man spoke, “I don’t suppose you have a fag on you?”

     “No sir, I don’t smoke.”

     A small dog, a Jack Russell terrier, came bounding out and ran to the boy with great energy and excitement. 

     John Connors studied the man briefly. He reminded him of his Uncle Ned, his father’s older brother. They went fishing once, down in the big river.

     “’Tis a dirty habit, don’t be takin’ it up. He won’t hurt you, he’s only a puppy. Jim Gorman here, I’m thinking about buying the place, just checking it out,” the old man said.

      “There’s a girl in my school, I think I love her…and my father is coming to visit,” the boy said as he petted the dog.

     “That’s grand, what’s your name?” the man said, “Will you come in and have a cup of tea with me, looks like there’s a shower coming?

     John Connors remembered then, his grandfather’s dire warning, “Don’t ever take up with strangers, you don’t know what they have in mind for you. “ Yet, the fateful words escaped his lips: “John Connors, sure I will.”

     The old man gently put one hand on the boy’s shoulder and with the other, closed the door behind them as the first splatters of raindrops smacked the cobblestone yard.

      Four hours later, John Connors’ blood streamed it’s way along the jagged crack to the drain hole. In the red-black liquid, a crescent moon reflected, dancing with the ripples. Come daylight, the yellow dandelion flowers would be dead; too much iron from the blood.

     A worker found his body in the rock quarry, ten days later. He was naked except for his blue denim jacket. His genitals had been surgically removed and his eyes gouged out leaving two black empty holes. His lips were pulled back into a grimace, and the letter from his father; folded neatly between his young, near perfect teeth.  His father; the fine, good carpenter, had gone back to England. He never came home for the funeral.


John O’Donovan is an emigrant from Ireland to the U.S. He is a retired carpenter, living in Southern California with his wife and two small dogs. His short stories have appeared in Mason Street Review and Brief Wilderness.

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri, contributor
The Chamber Magazine thechambermagazine.com

Biography:

I was born and grew up in Boise, Idaho, attended Boise State University, graduated with a BA in political science and went on to Colorado State University to pursue my MFA degree in creative writing (fiction). I graduated from the MFA in 2018, and have lived in in Garden Valley, Idaho since July 2019.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I would say the several Pushcart nominations I’ve received. I greatly moves me that others see something special in my work, in my craft. So, it’s certainly a good signpost for me moving forward!

Why do you write?

I write because I feel an impulse to write, to create worlds on the page and release my wild imagination. I also write to dissect human behaviors and social conventions.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

I try to write in the morning if I can. Sometimes, I’ll listen to classical music, especially Debussy or Tchaikovsky to provide that needed emotional wellspring to produce. With flash fiction pieces, I can often write and rework a piece in a single setting and send things out the same day. Of course, I probably should let some pieces percolate a bit, which is something I’m trying to do more.

In terms of rituals, I like to try to submit to at least six literary journals a day (and often many more). I like to keep up the habit and submit constantly! I’m addicted to submission! I also seek inspiration from my 3-4 daily walks, whether it’s in shadows, Ponderosas swaying, or a butter-colored light glowing at dusk.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

I’m a member of a writing group, so with longer stories I do tend to get them workshopped. I also occasionally send poems to friends here and there.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

I’m always working on something! I am specifically considering writing a novel set in an MFA program, about legacies and egos (with considerable comic elements). I know writing about writing and writing programs is often verboten, but I’d like to challenge that convention.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I’ve just had a flash fiction piece accepted at SmokeLong Quarterly, which is a real thrill for me! Otherwise, I’m just submitting away!

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I’d ideally like to get a short story collection published. Possibly a flash fiction collection. And hopefully a novel. But I really believe the short story collection has been overlooked too frequently and flash fiction even more so.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

I haven’t received bad reviews per se, but I have received constructive critiques of some submissions. And I think they can be helpful. In particular, I think they signal that someone was attracted to a piece and it’s worth continuing to pursue.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

I’d say try to write daily, if possible. Even if it’s a mere 50 words. I’d also say don’t be afraid to submit. Yes, it can be frightening, but having a rejection is proof that you put your work out there. And if you keep submitting and really targeting your submissions, you have a great shot at getting work published!

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Duotrope has been particularly helpful, due to its wide database of lit mags and various metrics, including journals with fast response times, most approachable, etc. It also gives you a sense of response trends at certain venues, given that so many post their responses.

I’d also say joining a writing group can be helpful. It gives you an impetus to write and submit by deadlines and, best case scenario, offers a range of voices and opinions. It’s especially helpful when multiple group members point out certain issues with a piece, as well as calling out the piece’s strengths.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

I don’t have a website at the present and I tend to avoid social media when possible, but much of my work can be found online!

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

I’m a self-proclaimed Romantic and a lover of Coen Brothers movies, especially The Big Lebowski. I wish I could abide like the Dude. But I tend to see travesties all around me like Walter Sobchak!

Appearing in The Chamber on April 30

The Chamber Magazine thechambermagazine.com

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri has an MFA in Creative Writing and several Pushcart nominations.

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

A young boy in Ireland leads a dismal and tragic existence.

“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

Enter a middle-class apocalypse of malls, capitalism, and clowns.

“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

A man reflects deeply on his relationship with another man.

“The Sociopath’s Lament” Fiction by Tim Carter

A man rides the fine line between nightmare and reality.

Appearing in The Chamber on April 30

The Chamber Magazine thechambermagazine.com

Interview with Author and Poet Yash Seyedbagheri

Yash Seyedbagheri has an MFA in Creative Writing and several Pushcart nominations.

“The Green Road” Fiction by John O’Donovan

A young boy in Ireland leads a dismal and tragic existence.

“Clowns at the End of the World” Fiction by Thomas White

Enter a middle-class apocalypse of malls, capitalism, and clowns.

“Somewhere” Poetry by Stephen House

A man reflects deeply on his relationship with another man.

“The Sociopath’s Lament” Fiction by Tim Carter

A man rides the fine line between nightmare and reality.

New Items in The Chamber’s Gift Shop

Over the last few days, I have added a few dozen new items, mostly t-shirts and coffee cups to The Chamber’s Gift Shop. These are beautifully dark, mysterious designs. Most are captioned with “The Chamber Magazine/ contemporary dark literature/ thechambermagazine.com” I have used imagery that shows people looking intensely at the viewer in order to not only catch the casual shopper’s attention but to hold it for a second or two as well. Check them out in the Gift Shop and let me know what you think. I am always open to constructive criticism. Nine of the new items are shown below.