Thursday, October 23, 2014

New Poetry by Peter C. Venable

First Gun

Two punks blew away an old couple in Rockingham.
I bought a pistol.
Years of Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gunsmoke,
Dragnet, Hill Street Blues and 48 Hours
incarnate it by the beside lamp
and it beats like The Tell-Tale Heart
this first night.
Its cold-blooded steel. Its metallic smell.
The hole in its barrel, a black hole eye, stares at me.
Unblinking. Damned eye!
Safety off. Seventeen-round clip full. The red bar signals
a 9mm brass hollow-point round sleeps in its chamber.
March wind blows in bursts. Power goes out. Fuck.
Did the stairs creak? Wind? A twig against the window?
Gusts in the chimney—did I close the damper?
Whack! Just something striking the gutter.
When wind lulls, my heart nearly seizes.
The doorknob—turning? Yes? No? Did I lock it?
I reach for it, and grip, finger curled. Quivering.
Carotid artery pulses. Is the red bar visible?
Too dark to see.
Its steel chamber beats louder—and louder—and louder. 

- Peter C. Venable 2014

Peter has written both free and metric verse for over fifty years and has been published in a number of poetry journals, such as American Vedantist, Vineyards, The Christian Communicator (3 issues and one forthcoming), Third Wednesday, Time of Singing (twice), Parody, The Merton Seasonal, Crux Literary Journal and forthcoming in The Laughing Dog, Windhover -  A Journal of Christian Literature and Vox Poetica.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New words and images by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Green Almonds
I found the green color of the unripe almonds soothing, even more so if I dipped my hand into the wicker basket in which they were piled as to let them run through my fingers in the slow moving current that I created. Although Aziz did not mind me doing so I did not blame the others for forbidding this, conveying their disapproval with downward turned lips and had it been a particularly vexing day, adding a “Tsk-Tsk” noise to the look.
I had gone through the entire staff of the kiosk, everyone having admonished me once, I should now know better but still sometimes could not help myself. I memorized Aziz’s schedule. If he worked with someone else I would wait for them to go on break before going over. I would kill time at the patisserie across the way. They had strong coffee and three little tables out front, the other two of which were often empty. This was how I met Fatima. It was her family’s place and everyone who worked there except for one prep cook was related. Initially they found it odd that I would sit at one of their tables sipping coffee, since there were so many places close by better suited for such things.

In truth their machine had been bought secondhand from a now closed café almost as an afterthought but no one wanted to question me about my choice as to not risk bringing to light all my other real café options in case for some odd reason I had not realized.
Cinnamon skinned, she had the build of one of those pagan fertility sculptures, which I found appealing. The first time I saw her I thought that she had been taller as I was sitting with her standing over the table.  Our relative positions also prevented me at first from noticing how limpid her eyes were. I wanted to ask her if she knew Aziz but that seemed such a bourgeoisie mistake, the assumption that all people of the same ethnic background knew one another.  I also did not want to risk it because Aziz only had eyes for women who looked like the ones from the American Movies. Anytime I pointed out a woman walking by whom I found attractive, it did not matter what their charms were, he would shake his head and say;
“No, no blond is better…:
I could imagine in trying to appear cool and sophisticated what he would say about someone so close to the type he had grown up with.
Fatima’s mother looked like a slightly heavier, older version of her. She smiled but also watched like a hawk that every pastry which passed my lips was paid for. Fatima also had an older brother whom I had only seen briefly as a head peering through the circular window of the swinging door that led into the kitchen.

I would sit at the little table on the far left as it was the one which did not wobble and she would come out on the sidewalk to sweep while we chatted. I would take out my sketch pad to give my hands something to do. After a month of going there every day she felt comfortable enough with me to ask what brought me there. I was too embarrassed to mention the almonds. I did a sketch of her face giving it to her.
A few times I had happened by and if she was having a bad day and no one was around she hugged me. Laughing our foreheads banged together as we both went for the kiss on the cheeks, the lips confused about as where to go. Aziz knew about my infatuation, with a tasting lemon scowl he told me several times;
“Those type of girls very traditional.”
Still finding me at my usual table sketching, he waved and dropped it. Now and then I would run into her on her way to work as Aziz and I took a walk before he too had to start his shift. They would momentarily linguistically exclude me, his way of subtly reminding me that he knew what he was talking about even if I did not want to listen.
I was waiting in the small line to order my coffee. Only her mother alone was behind the counter. I said hello but thought better than to ask where Fatima was. I had not dressed warm enough and so decided to take the side street home which was quicker. A series of doors that were interspersed with dumpsters, by happenstance her brother was emptying the garbage and having a smoke.  He saw me before I saw him.
He was supposed to eventually take over the place but had not ever bothered to learn much about the daily operations. He was busy giving away free cookies to pretty tourists and keeping a mental scorecard of who he could marry his sister off to. He had a plan already; he would sell the place, the estimated value being the other thing which he kept close track of and then use that money to travel. Of course he could not just throw his sister to the wolves, he would marry her off and therein lay the tricky part of the equation. The groom had to be able to take care of her but also could not be too well off as it would then be expected that the wedding be lavish and as he had to pay for it he did not want it cutting too much into his future nest egg.
He thought his trademark was the gold rimmed pilot sunglasses that he almost always wore. Two heads taller than me, he was still mildly apprehensive that I may get a good shot in and so took a moment to take his sunglasses off. My mind raced to find a phrase to diffuse the situation but his fist was quicker, catching me in my left eye. I had not slept well the night before and was tired, I crumpled to the ground with what I would like to imagine was a modicum of dignity. I raised my hands even with my chest, palms out, not to tell him to stop but that I was not going to fight. There was no point to it, besides being doubtful that I could even take him, a victory on my part would get me nothing except potential awkwardness from his sister and definite increased animosity from the mother.
I do not think he had meant to hit me as hard as he had or at least not in the face. My eye had already begun to swell, the sight of which made him realize that I would most likely be asked by everybody what happened. His hands went under my arms to help me up. He bent down again to grab my book bag which he then handed to me.
“Ca-Va?” he asked.
I nodded but as I went to walk away I wobbled a little. He took me to a nearby bar where two of his friends sat in the corner smoking a hookah and watching with curiosity as we drank Pastis with almond syrup.  I felt I could now get home. We shook hands and I nodded.
I put my hat and bag on the table and let my clothes fall to the floor at the foot of the bed. I lay down but in my usual position, on my stomach it made my eye throb. I have always had trouble sleeping on my back.  In the orphanage whomever had my bed before me had created a sort of divot. To lay on one’s stomach hurt the ribs and back but to lay in the concave space on one’s back was a little more tolerable. Even then though sleep had been hard to come by as it was not my usual position.
As to try to counteract the discomfort I came up with a mantra that I would recite in my head until sleep finally took me, the origin of which I can not remember;
“I have never had a wart nor broken a bone…”
I got up to get a glass of water, some aspirin and a cold cloth for my eye. I lay back down, cold shroud on my face blocking my view of the ceiling;
“I have never had a wart nor broken a bone….”

- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Call out from Regime Books

As you're aware, Regime Books is a collective of writers and editors slaving away for free, and entirely for the love of it. Along the way, we've published many great writers and poets (many for the first time). We've also worked out a way to pay contributors to our magazine.

We know our writers and readers are passionate about what we do. So much so, that a number have weighed in with very serious donations to support our work (and underwrite our losses!). Along with contributors, we pay printers, designers, and IT companies. We also dream of the day we can pay a copy editor to help us release a book with no typos!

A number of our donors suggested that we open up the books and ask for donations. Who knows, we may find other kind souls just as committed to new writing as we are, but perhaps without the time to stay up night after night reading submissions.

And, to make it really worth while, we've dug up two sparkling new copies of Regime 03 . You could win one by donating.

Visit Regime Books to do your bit.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Poetry by Michelle Villanueva


I never cared much for these lilacs she said
slowly teasing melted gum from its wrapper

you recall it I know the first time we left
the beach slow sunset it was and those riddles

made you laugh while above us flew sleek skylarks
clogging the breeze with their forgiving wings

delicate we were as sea spun macaroons
on Sundays when the boulevards ran empty

my head filled with the evening crisp as new lace
sang with the wind on that shimmering clothesline

surprised she remembered I sighed wondering when
the sun had dulled the sharp edges I once knew

and pinpricks of conversation had become
filigree in the spun corners of her mind

smiling she told me I would have stayed were we
free from stark lines pulling us tumbling back

even still I could taste the surf air heavy
with taffy colored whispers of the divine

then with their beguiling scent lilac petals
pattered away those thoughts as we shuffled home

- Michelle Villanueva 2014

Michelle Villanueva is a student pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing - Poetry at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Foothill Poetry Journal, The Shine Journal, and several other print and online publications.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A new Regime - Regime 4

Nay-sayer though I am, I will resist the urge to skewer this review toward another dog-eared eulogy for the printed word. Reports of its demise, if not greatly exaggerated, at least labour under a flawed etymology. That said, it would be hard to argue with those who deem the publishers of Perth’s Regime Books as “courageous” for comitting themselves to the publication of high quality books of poetry and fiction, as well as this, their flagship of new writing, Regime Magazine.

As Bluepepper is first and foremost concerned with poetry, I will focus on the poetic fare in Regime 4. This is no great challenge, seeing as two-thirds of the magazine appears to be devoted to the second-oldest vocation. What first struck this reviewer was the relative youth of most of the featured poets, names familiar to followers of Bluepepper but perhaps not yet to the wider community. Michele Seminara, Stuart Barnes, Robbie Coburn, Phillip A. Ellis, Cameron Lowe (no relation), these are poets who are already re-shaping the landscape of poetry in this country with their wry, wise, vivid voices that appear momentarily lost on the tin ear of the more established literary magazines. 

However, the quality is far from even, leaving this pickled pedant to question the inclusion of older, more established names on what may have been an editorial call based on reputation alone. To my enduring shame I have been guilty of such calls myself, knowing that people read indexes before handing over their readies. It doesn’t help that many of the weaker pieces in Regime 4 are also some of the longer pieces, running against a laconic grain in Australian literary culture that favours the short sharp shock of the twelve-liner “Aussie haiku”. As an example of the latter, I will quote in full Andrew Bifield’s “The Car Will Not Start”:

The car will not start.
We can hear him
From the beer garden,
Trying to get the engine to turn over

Without flooding it.
‘It’s not going to start,’ says Brit,
Looking at her empty cigarette packet.
‘Why doesn’t he just call a mechanic?’

She doesn’t understand

As in any selection of Australian poetry, there are the poems of place. Not always my favourite sub-genre, but this new generation have introduced a metaphyical element (in part inspired by Michael Dransfield) that was largely missing before. Mike Greenacre’s “Preston Point” and Robbie Coburn’s “The Invisible Sister” are perfect examples of this new and exciting trend. And the sheer exhillaration of Carly-Jay Metcalfe’s “Primitive” was a true revelation. It is the exception that proves the rule regarding the longer poems, a cinematic rollercoaster ride of a poem that set this bruised old heart racing with lines such as “Eating from the hands of the land,/summer steals in”. In the same vein, although from outside Australia, was American Mather Schneider’s “Almost Everything” which begins: “I have wine, pozole and clean air”.

It is the thrill of such chance discoveries that make publications such as Regime 4 so invaluable to the literary wealth of a burgeoning culture. Such serendipity has long been leached from the pages of more august publications in this country, where the same old names from the same old generation continue to pepper the indexes as though “Oz lit.” were in perpetual holding pattern. For such serendipity and courage, Bluepepper dips its hat to the editors of Perth’s  Regime Books.

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Poetry by Jim Conwell

you undressed someone. 
But you didn’t stop 
when you had all their clothes off, 
you carried on. 
And you didn’t stop 
until there was not one atom of them 
that you hadn’t removed. 
What would then 
be standing 
in the place where they had been? 
Wrong, not nothing. 
An absence would be there. 

- Jim Conwell 2014

Jim Conwell lives and works in London, England. With an original background in Fine Art, he has worked for nearly 30 years in the mental health field. He has had poems published in The Journal,  The Lampeter Review, Poetry Cornwall, South Poetry, Orbis, Ofi Press, The English Chicago Review, The SHOp, Uneven Floor,Turbulence, The Seventh Quarry, Under the Radar and The Frogmore Papers, and has poems scheduled for publication in Poetry and Audience, and Elbow Room.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

New Poetry by Kristine Ong Muslim

(first appeared in Harpur Palate Vol. 11, No. 1, Summer/Fall 2011)
They live under the stairs.
Upon entering the house, they do not wipe
their shoe bottoms against the welcome mat.
They are makeshift boxes smirking
with cardboard lips, gorging bad music.
They have discolored teeth and bad hair.
Every bit of darkness helps. Everything else
kills them. Their toxic mushrooms
hunker down on the cellar floor.

- Kristine Ong Muslim 2014

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of three books, most recently We Bury the Landscape (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012) and Grim Series (Popcorn Press, 2012). Her poems and short stories have been published and anthologized in the likes of Existere, Gargoyle Magazine, Sou’wester, Southword, The State, and Dadaoism (An Anthology) (Chômu Press, 2012). She lives in a small farming town in the Philippines and serves as poetry editor for LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. Website: