Bohemian Pupil Press

Publishing for the Clear-Sighted Imbiber

“Early Education”

by John McKernan

I would only read
Books on spiders and butterflies

During religion class
I often fell asleep and dreamed
Of meeting God at a baseball game

The first time I watched
A classmate draw an image [of an ant]
On a blank sheet of paper
I said I don’t believe that

At recess the nun
Would randomly show us some thing
A dead baby hummingbird
Or a monarch butterfly
Wrapped tight in a spider web

She never stopped whistling on the playground

John McKernan – who grew up in Omaha Nebraska – is now a retired Comma Herder / Phonics Coach after teaching 41 years at Marshall University. He lives – mostly – in West Virginia where he edits ABZ Press. His most recent book is a selected poems Resurrection of the Dust. He has published poems in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Journal, Antioch Review, Guernica, Field and many other magazines

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“Found Poem”

by Mark Jones

a snapshot
of someone’s dad
lying on the sidewalk,
fallen maybe twenty feet
from home

Mark Jones is an English professor and amateur jazz pianist who lives in Blue Island, Illinois. His most recent creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bewildering Stories, Crack the Spine, Lantern Magazine, and Vine Leaves Literary Journal.

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“Keep It Terse”

by Beverly Cummings

Walking becomes deeper with the daffodils, crocuses, tulips and hyacinths.  The magnolia tree in full blossom.  A lost lover in front of the building.  Realize it is an illusion.

Waking up in intensive care, clinging to life; a suicide case.  My mother says we almost lost her a few times.  My once upon a time husband tells me when he visited in hospital I was totally insane.  The doctors said I might never recover.  He left in tears.  Recognizing psychotic thoughts is more than a pastime.  I have been ill for years at a time.  It is by a miracle I am sane again.

Flesh on the bone, is growing old the realization of how much time you waste and have wasted?  The need for probity, yet wanting to atrophy. I am losing the generation that spawned me.  Try for quiet but the mind rumbles.  Am I winning or losing this battle?  Things have changed.  I don’t know where I’m going.  Growth is like a tumour.

This week deranged; the unexpected careening up, full of turmoil and disorder.  I watch the evening news and my psyche  calms.  The planet so crazy.

Even paper flowers wilt.  The nacreous evening sky arcane.  The downtown sirens.  Keep it terse.  Like pointillism the world is visible between the atoms.  Swarms of  red ants clot the sidewalk.  Crazy touch, the way the moon moves in and out of your fingertips.

Beverly Cummings was born and lives in Ottawa, Canada.  She has previously published poetry in a number of little magazines, most recently the online journals The Steel Chisel and Monday’s Poem. She has been a frequent contributor to The Voice and Open Minds Quarterly.  She has three times placed as an Honourable Mention in Open Minds Quarterly’s annual Brainstorming poetry contest.  She has five self-published chapbooks.  She now has a trade book:  A Good Death.

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London Fog – Micro Essay

by Diana Smith Bolton

When the rain rolls in, fat and warm like a purring wet cat, I smell the same scent: my mother’s Scotchgarded trench, heavy drops beading up on the sleeves, and the orange and brown plaid lining, blanket-thick, sopping up the moisture. She was brand-loyal; some things were just the best, like London Fog for humid Mississippi rain drenching an October day when you didn’t want to go to the store but had six mouths to feed.

Even now, that warm-breath muddy wetness brings her to me, years after our last word. I see her, pulling grocery sacks out of the car through the rain and into the garage, brown paper sagging to hold cans of condensed soup.

I smell and see my sisters, too, our skinny bodies enveloped in little London Fogs. Our mother picked them up at Goodwill or yard sales, like new, just then outgrown by other little girls. We are warm in these sturdy coats as we wait for the carpool. Some Januaries, southern-cold in the spongy yard, we run and flap our coat-wings, huffing our lung-warm air out into the chill like we are dragons, like Puff, like Figment, all pink and purple and navy, our plaid linings flapping like underbellies. As the sedan pulls up, we turn to the window, and see her frosted hair, one hand lifted to it, one hand lifting to us.

Diana Smith Bolton is the founding editor of District Lit. Her work has recently appeared in Lines + Stars, Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. She lives in northern Virginia and is active in the DC poetry scene.

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Unburied – Micro Essay

by Jamie Paradise

While cleaning my mother’s yard, preparing for the sale, we discovered a dog carcass. It had been pounded into the road by cars for weeks, then washed up to lie in the thick untended grass. It was so old, so dry and stiff, and flat, that for a while, my five brothers and I wondered if it was even a dog.

Mike, the painter, always looking for a subject, took a photo. His previous work consisted of twisted bodies, rotten fruit, and windowsill flies. Soon, this petrified canine would appear on a canvas, purchase price $500. Like other art openings, the family would attend in support. We’d bring an appetizer from the grocery store, drink the free wine, roam the gallery, and whisper, “Who would put a painting of a dead dog in their house? But I do like the flower painting.”

Eventually, leaves were raked, sidewalks swept, and the tall grass cut. We rewarded ourselves with barbecued pork from the stone pit and drank plenty of beer.

After eating, the night got dark, fireflies flashed, and the fire more mesmerizing.

Somewhere in our inspired, inebriated brains, was a remembrance of unburied bodies and the problems that befall an improper farewell. Elpenor, soldier of the Trojan War and companion to Odysseus, who fell off a roof, broke his neck, was unmourned, and tottered restlessly in the underworld. Polynices, lying unburied in a dusty field, nibbled on by dogs, eventually bringing Antigone and Creon to dramatic ruin.

The meat was off the grill but the fire remained. With enough beer in us, it seemed fitting and proper that this neglected dog receive a respectful funeral.

Using a plastic bag and pinching what was once a leg of the dog, we threw the corpse on the fire. The fire crackled along the fur like leaves, but even a sun dried dog is difficult to burn. We gathered sticks and logs and expanded our funeral pyre. Because of the strong wind, we all sampled the downwind pungency only once, then huddled in a semi-circle, upwind.

Most of the time we stared at the flames. It was peaceful, noble, and fitting. With time, and fuel, the dog rose in smoke to the night stars, its spirit contented we believed. From the silent contemplation of our drinking, someone crushed his beer can and said of the stiff stray, “Yeah, she was a good dog.”

Jamie Paradise teaches writing at the Forsyth School and is currently working on a collection of short essays that share the experience and lessons of growing up the youngest of fourteen siblings.

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Crown of Roses – Micro Essay

by Adriana Gonzalez

I met you when I fantasized about walking into the sea. I remember it was a time when I outgrew my funeral dress, a time when I collected rosaries out of anxiety and impulsion. I met you when I was falling into various cracks and disillusionment—attempting to sift through fog and glassy transpierces. And no one knew about my fascination with seaweed. No one knew that I slept all day after learning about rocks and wavelengths in my last semester of college. I didn’t tell anyone that sleeping was the only thing keeping me from tangling in the folding water. You have to understand why you creep in so soundlessly, how you made me aware of the crisscrossing cells that make up my skin, how you taught me about sage baths and how imperative it is that we love our mothers.

We were bred from a fire town, a dry splintered city tucked away in southern California and you taught me about watering dirt to reduce the heat that would soak in our soles.  You told me so often, you have to hold things in your hands and really feel their edges, cup their form and burn it in you because what we hold in this life is all we have.

When I found myself in front of you again, you asked me, how did we get here?

I don’t have an answer for you. I can’t tell you how my sister getting married brought me back, how I sat in my green dress and thought about your t -shirts and your picture frames and your porch.

Will you promise me things? Can we carve out ledges in the Montana terrain and swell with the soil? I’ll make us an herb garden. I’ll only use vinegar to rinse out the sinks so the cats won’t be poisoned.

Let me tell you how I imagine your dusty hands melting on me, how I want your palms on my thighs, an engraved permanent burn where my children will ask, whose hands are those? I will turn to you in your boots, and you will smile down at the floorboards, your palms full of iceberg roses you’ve just pruned.

I’ll keep rosaries and follow the beads if it leads us to our own ocean or lake or a dirty dust where we tangle in our golden limbs. We will shake ourselves into various foundations where we chart up maps and have a home with our daughter who we named Barcelona, and we will put her to sleep with diamond skies and a wooden house—maybe some brick pasted to the walkway so her toes won’t splinter. And if they do, you will pick her up, hold her to your chest while I take her tiny feet in my hands and pull out what does not belong.

Adriana is currently studying Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches first year writing, a Follet Fellow, and an assistant editor for Hotel Amerika. Her work appears in the August issue of Hippocampus.

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A Series of Poems

by Michael Estabrook

Fate

I step over a penny in the street
Dad you can’t leave it there
bring it home save it
it’s bad luck if you don’t

Okay honey I didn’t know
I pick it up promptly & drop it
through a sewer grate

Dad No!
she stops and stares
her hand over her mouth

Bring it on you bastard!
come and get me
I yell to whoever this vindictive
petty penny-pinching god might be

Nothing happened
(but you already knew that)

Heat Wave

When you get to be my age
95 degrees is dangerous
stay indoors
in front of the fan
hydrate obviously

Time for me to get up
on the ladder shirtless at mid-day
finish painting the gutter and overhang
I enjoy taunting the gods
they’ve been doing it to me
for 65 years already
the sons of bitches!

Inanity

He doesn’t watch the news
because it’s awful, sad, frightful
and frightening, depressing
and mindlessly redundant
and most of the “anchors”
are clueless idiots
more concerned
with their own celebrity
than reporting the news.
Although many of
the “newswomen” are pretty
some even have long legs
and cute bottoms.

Progress?

Decades ago
as a traveling pharmaceutical sales rep
I managed to take care
of my customers
perfectly fine without
the urgent necessity of laptops
cellphones, iPads, tablets
email, voicemail, texting and tweeting
by frequenting an old-fashioned pay phone
in the Howard Johnson’s lobby
in the Cranford rest area off exit 136
of the Garden State Parkway.

Recess

Swaggering, shoulders swinging
thick-legged golfers clomp
into the clubhouse lobby
after their games are done
glaring this way and that
in their shorts and baseball caps
brash voices bellowing
their exploits on the links
so everyone within earshot
can enjoy their triumphs too
and notice them in their post-game splendor
big-baby boys really
still playing king of the hill
in the schoolyard at recess
trying to impress the little girls.

Michael Estabrook is a recently retired baby boomer poet freed finally after working 40 years for “The Man” and sometimes “The Woman.” No more useless meetings under florescent lights in stuffy windowless rooms. Now he’s able to devote serious time to making better poems when he’s not, of course, trying to satisfy his wife’s legendary Honey-Do List

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