“Late Night Recitation” Dark Poetry by Thomas Piekarski

"Late Night Recitation" Dark Poetry by Thomas Piekarski: freight depot

Late night after the freight train has rumbled
along case-hardened tracks, where the well-lit
overhead walkway leads to a light rail terminal,
some unseen, unhinged lunatic’s F bombs echo. 

He is no grifter, not guilty despite his rage,
mere victim of the all-inclusive media age
in a world where 3000 gods have thus far
been worshiped, products of indoctrination.

The crisis in belief means no one is immune
to trafficking of bogus mottos, myopic blab,
incredulous religions, absurd gesticulations,
and rhetoric that restrains one’s sovereignty.

Shall we grant the clerics of maniacal sects
enforcement of standards ruining the planet,
deny men simple pleasures Aphrodite gifts 
when she slips between the sheets in dream?


Half past midnight some crickets strike up
a cacophony of unintelligible chatter which
inspires a racoon to squeeze under the gate
and gallop across our building’s parking lot.

Tropes are hidden from the eye. Oh so scary
our flesh crying out hysterically for release,
bizarre visions like sex in the grave typical
now that cyber automatons are ubiquitous. 

Artificial intelligence has programmed us for
telepathic communication. Whether we accept 
or toss it willy-nilly into into a big black hole
is a decision distinguishing wise from naive.

Sweet charity in the sensible robin’s twitters 
pierces inky blackness with a fine symphony.
No stars visible, but the crescent moon dozes
in a sky filled with billions of invisible sprites.


A little blinking red light drifts overhead,
airplane on its way to a hole in the ozone.
Seas are born anew, species come and go 
as rifle shots reverberate around the hood.

Even itty-bitty inferences will elicit
violence when charged with hatred,
taking very little to set off a nut case
who may spread bullets in his wake. 

King Alfred unified England though
the Scots and Irish resisted intrusion
into their virgin lands encompassing
histories wholly sacred to the tribes.

Ideologically speaking, what’s mystical
is not an illusion nor possibly accessible
to other than finely-tuned senses zeroed 
in on extermination of tyranny’s brood.


Dawn could be centuries off for all anyone 
cares. Yosemite once more aflame tonight,
July bringing the full force of hideous heat
to bear down upon its most illustrious host.

Ladybugs, roaches, spiders, wingless moths
crawl across the hot asphalt at about 2 AM.
The still summer air is pregnant with
countless hours of suppressed daylight. 

While specious conspiracies go viral
collecting likes by the thousands, flash
the gyres of corruption, animus and pain
in this nation lacking bona fide identity.

No one ever learned better than Romans
switched to Christianity by Constantine,
you will never fell the genuine barbarian
with dull sword and twisted prophecies.

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in such publications as Poetry Quarterly, Literature Today, The Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Modern Literature, South African Literary Journal, and Home Planet News. His books of poetry are Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, Mercurial World, and Aurora California.

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If you like more mainstream fiction, you may also want to check out Rural Fiction Magazine.

“It Was Only a Joke” Fiction by Susan Hatters Friedman

If I’d have known that it was going to kill him, of course I would never have done it. We were young and in love. It was a joke. 

The way he smelled. Like a forest.

His ID bracelet caught in my hair during our first kiss. 

Every single thing about him was sexy. It was 1985. We were nineteen and in love and he could have worn shoulder pads and a crop top and I would have thought he was sexy. 

I loved passing gum back and forth between our mouths when we were kissing. Yes, we were young.

Picked by Wine

I imagined him giving me the ID bracelet when we moved things to the next level. In novels, guys in the army gave women their ID bracelet. I hadn’t seen anyone our age wearing one. Maybe my gorgeous Michael was old-fashioned in this single lacuna. 

Lying in the grass, I played with it on his hairy arm. ‘You going to give me this one day?’ We were meant to be together.

Puzzled look. ‘Are you seriously allergic to shellfish too? You would also die of anaphylactic shock?’

I hadn’t realized that people wore medic-alert bracelets other than great-grandmothers.

We used to play word games. ‘I would walk through fire for you.’ 

‘I would transfer schools so we could wake up together every morning.’

‘I would do anything for you.’ 

Laughing and tipsy with the chardonnay, I passed him a shrimp instead of gum. 

It was only a joke.

Susan Hatters Friedman is a forensic psychiatrist, who is also pursuing a Masters in Crime Fiction at the University of Cambridge. Her creative writing can also be read in the Dillydoun Review, the Centifictionist, and forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

“Just in Case” Flash Fiction by Garrett Rowlan

The man walked out of the bushes as Paul was walking at twilight along the ravine, the one that ran north toward the Rose Bowl, a mile or so distant. Covered by the stretching shadows of the oak trees, Paul had turned back in the direction of his car, a 1/4-mile away, and out of the corner of his eye he saw the man alter his direction.

Paul didn’t like the young man’s appearance: scrawny, wearing a blue tank top (somehow Paul already imagined giving the police an All Points Bulletin), and dark-skinned, with knotted black hair spun like cotton candy off his skull. Paul increased his stride though his right knee, the one he had injured in high school thirty-five years ago and never fully healed, had begun to ache, the reason why he had turned back to his car in the first place. The man shouted something from behind. He was asking for money, maybe, for a cigarette or yelling from the depths of his hostility or madness. Paul’s heart pumped panic to his limbs as he speeded up his walk and clutched the switchblade in his pocket, the one he carried just in case.

The man’s shrill laugh pierced. He was getting closer. It was a nice neighborhood but quiet at this Sunday, twilight hour. Cars passed infrequently. Paul steadied himself for the encounter that followed. He imagined the response. Paul would not hesitate. The knife would penetrate the man’s flesh. What Paul imagined was the man’s look of surprise and panic filling drug-altered eyes, a second before the pain registered. Oh yes! Paul could imagine it clearly. Oh, he would love to show the punk that a middle-aged white man—somehow he saw the punk as Hispanic or black though he’d only gotten a glimpse in the gloaming—could be crazy too. Oh yeah!

When Paul couldn’t stand the wait any longer, he turned holding the knife.

The man was not there. He was some fifty feet behind Paul and talking on his cell phone. He didn’t notice Paul. “Yeah,” he said, as Paul turned away, “I was fucked up! Fucked up royally on that shit!”

Slipping the knife back in his pocket, Paul turned away, relieved and quizzical, asking himself, Who did the man remind me of? And then he had it, his brother-in-law, Rudy. He was Mexican too. “Hispanic,” he corrected Paul, the first time they met. Rudy had married Paul’s sister, Cindy. They had two kids, Ronnie and Maria, the delight of their grandmother. Cindy had gotten the looks, athletic ability, and ambition: She was a corporate lawyer, the Mexican husband was a high-school administrator. They were cogs in the success machine that had not included Paul.

The kid laughed again, loser, he shrieked.

Loser. It was the word he called himself, pushing fifty and unemployed, drinking on the sly, and watching cable with his mother. His favorite program was Dexter. He never missed envying a guy who had it all, looks, girlfriends, good job, and he could kill anyone he wanted, something that Paul sometimes envied, not that he wanted to be a serial killer, but he could definitely compile a list, beginning with his mother. “I could rent the room for a lot more if you weren’t my son,” she had said, resentfully. He’d kill her then he’d shank his ex-wife, who had cheated on him before leaving him. His father died years ago.

He realized he had been walking in silence for a couple of minutes now. He turned and looked back down the curving street and realized that his pursuer no longer pursued. The kid must have cut east at the narrow cross street. Paul walked another couple of minutes until he reached his car. He saw himself going home and didn’t want to think after that. Starting the car, Paul wondered if the kid wasn’t going to attack someone else, obviously discouraged by Paul’s fast walk and the knife he’d flashed. He drove to the narrow, rising road, and parked. He got out of the car and waited. It was night now and the houses were all quiet, most separated from the street by walls and hedges. A car passed, and Paul crouched down so he wouldn’t be seen. The kid was getting near. No other car was coming. Paul waited. The knife was in his pocket, just in case he wanted to step out and strike and then run away. Just in case he wanted to do that.

Garrett Rowlan is a retired LA sub teacher with seventy or so published stories and a couple of novels. His website is garrettrowlan.com.

Coming Up in The Chamber on Friday, March 26

“Forever Young” micro fiction by Diana Young

A dark tale of a sculptor and his statues

“Big Game Hunter” fiction by Travis Lee

A wounded big game hunter in Africa faces being eaten by the wildlife

“Touchy Hands” poetry by Janice Gomez

A chilling moment of reflection on the narrator’s life

“The Returning Visits” poetry by Janice Gomez

A haunting story of two friends in a poignant moment