'It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleedin' An Anthem for a Doomed Youth I never fit in. I wasn't cool, I didn't play Sports, none of the fraternities would consider me in a million years and if you weren't in a fraternity or didn't play Sports you were no one. A great big Zero. Girls treated me as if I had a contagious disease or the bubonic plague or both. Until I was sixteen. I lost thirty pounds in six weeks working out all summer, doing football exercises in the incredible humid August mornings and afternoons. the pounds melted off, replaced by muscles. By summer's end I had to drink three San Miguel beers after the afternoon workout just to out back the water weight lost. Drank them at the married woman's house rented from my cousin's family, a property they would rent until they pissed it all away on weekend binges that got longer every weekend through the late sixties until they lost everything they owned and the aunt died way too young. But that's another story. Afternoons spent at the married woman's. Could it have been my imagination or was she trying to get me drunk, get the cousin drunk, no she didn't really care for him, he was crazy after all, scarred from the fall he took after he knocked up Skinny Ginny and was dropped on his face and beat to a bloody pulp for transgressions upon the person of a way hot girl, fourteen pushing eighteen with a blunt instrument and no one mentioned the stillborn twins she bore months after the fall. No, no one saw much of Ginny either after, no one knows where she went., what she did but one thing for sure, they couldn't afford to put Doug's face back together with plastic surgery either. But the beers were cold and the married woman was saying stop by every day, there's always cold beers here for you, I'll be waiting remember that. And so would her roommate, a petite beautiful fraulein, flat chested, my type but definitely way too old, maybe thirty and not interested in young boys like the San Miguel woman, fat, how old, who knows? Who remembers? Who cares? She had two children, husband always on the road and her eyes roving, roving always, handing me the San Miguel, her fingers lingering on mine as she puts the frosty there. I chug it down and wonder if I'm living some kind of perverse Holden Caulfield nightmare at the end of the earth on Long Island, a Peyton Place revisited and everyone who mattered would know I was lingering here but how else was I going to get those beers, just turning seventeen, mean and lean now, a girlfriend who defied the odds of liking a misfit, more my style, more my age, turning seventeen that year as well, mid sixties of it's alright ma I'm only Bleedin’ And when I was done doing workouts, I was in Pug’s cellar drinking beers, his parent's didn't mind as long as there was no hard stuff involved, at least they knew where we were, hanging out listening to Rubber Soul over and over again, later, cruising the parking area on the docks overlooking the channel, checking out the inevitable rows and rows of parkers, who was doing who, and endless cruising, aimless, boredom, the watchword of the summer from the surfing movie, Endless Summer, our motto, "You really missed it, you should have been here yesterday---"That movie we drove into the city to see, passing the Last Exit to Brooklyn sign we longed to steal, unreachable so far above the concrete viaduct, full speed ahead, damn the traffic, highways, as if we could ever live a last exit to Brooklyn life, having just discovered that you could smoke the grass but not, like Charlie Chaplin's son had so wisely observed, the grass that grew on father's lawn. And we were ready to try anything to relieve the boredom, dressed in our official Bob Dylan Village Rebel outfits, maroon CPO jacket, faded jeans, torn moccasins or boots, our hands thrust deep into our pockets averting people's gazes, looking at the cracks in the sidewalk and appearing lost in some kind of transcendental thought that would probably translate into thinking of ways to get out of paying to do the same things twice years before Dylan had written the “Memphis Blues Again”. But he hadn't. So we had to settle for the revelation of “Blonde on Blonde”, “the sad eyed lady of the lowlands” blowing us away, hey yeah “positively fourth street,”” maggie's farm”, those spanish boots of spanish letter, if we were depressed and I was all the time depressed, this was music to fall into, hands deep in the pockets head full of beer, formative poems, the worst kind of adolescent riffs, attempting to find form on paper as some did and it would take years to get over the songs, the lyrics, the sad eyed poems, maybe a lifetime because time became compressed then accelerated out of control all through the sixties until whole lifetimes were created and expired in millennial highlights of a generation we were only half aware of participating in even as we stood on the sidelines, a Marlboro draped from our lips, Bogarting the filters like Jimmy Deans on a bums rush to the apocalypse in VW bugs instead of corvettes, chewing sunflower seeds in Pug's cellar, Nelson's idea. Nelson who would do anything female, do any drug that stood still long enough to be ingested, or anything that might be a drug, and who years later, after he was busted and forced to make a special choice: six years in a place of poor quality up north with hard assed criminal felon types hungry for hippie ass or three years in the service of your choice in the middle of an escalating war. This was a time of unenlightened marijuana laws and possession of residue could get your ass shit canned for an unbelievable time and Nelson took the obvious choice, the air corps. Then he turning up at my door before he shipped out to who the fuck knows where south east asian style, in uniform, impressing the shit out of my mother, not knowing he was there to attempt a cop, but it would be alight. Maybe. Soon, we'd be smoking banana peels, hell it was the age of Mellow Yellow and we were naive enough to believe anything. And San Miguel was the beer of choice well into the season although I was not playing ball, I was working out like a madman. Suddenly the girls thought I wasn't such an awful thing, in fact, it was if I had acquired a musky scent of passion and they were all wide-eyed at the transformation, but I was true to my first love only taking out my former ostracized as-a-loser- frustrations, on all the greasers and punks and frat dudes who had spent five years dissing me in gym class, blowing them away in flag football games, on the wrestling mats, dodge balls wounds inflicted at unbelievable rates of speed and on the basketball court where my endless practicing was paying off with the addition of a body to fit the skills acquired working out before and after football practices, a sport I wisely didn't pursue into the high school season as our overmatched team was destroyed by larger schools, all the athletes in our school draft exempt because of the career threatening knee injuries, except for mine. And on the court where I outran them, took them to the hoop and used tricks learned on pickup courts, taking them out on lay ups, undercutting, swift shoves no ref would ever see, bodies up against the wall mother fuckers or face down on the mat broken nose rubbed in it, it was cool for all that year and after school there was always the San Miguels waiting in the ice box a couple of blocks away, San Miguel morning noon and night if I wanted them. and I wanted them. as I worked on my drinking problem right from the start of a drinking career that would span thirty years of wildly spinning out of control circles a vortex of whirl pooling hells, visions of demented Johanna’s on each level, all the baby blues of the mind screaming from pits of burning swamps. I was naked and alive giddy with the prospect of singing into the wildfires of dissipation, going down helter-skelter like man, years before Manson and I was ready for what would come, the hard stuff: drink drugs you name it, walking a thin tightrope of tenuous mental confusions, but I was so much older than that, I'm younger than that now. And shit yeah, It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding, my knuckles raw from punching the walls, stucco patterned sides of buildings, glass doors and windows that gave in and caused endless lines, scars that are still visible on the broken increasingly arthritic hands, faint now but a constant reminder of what it was like to be seventeen and confused enough to think that depression and dissipation and disaffection and anger added up to being a poet manqué and that someday I would grow up to be Bob Dylan and get to live in the Village and walk around with a beautiful hippie chick hugging me close, my eyes firmly on the ground, thinking profound thoughts, reading the poets of dismay and decay and the death french modernists, rimbaud, verlaine, baudelaire and the wild men of no religion no god, I was a poet in the making and it only took a couple of San Miguels to get me there and the hands on the wall, the one reaching for the cold bottles in the fridge was this hot to trot, missing two front teeth married babe the kids are asleep hubby is on the road and I'm oh so lonely oh so lonely for what only a young man can give me, a real four star Holden C. thing and I did what any self respecting Salinger youth would do: I left a 45 rpm record for her to listen to a remake of Bob classic, “it ain't me babe”, by the turtles for her, an unmistakable message for her to get and she did alright, ma…go away from my window, leave at your own chosen speed, I'm not the one you want babe, I'm not the one you need, you say you're looking for someone, to bring you up each time you fall, to defend you and to protect you, to come each time you call, someone who will die for you and more, well it ain't me babe…and the verse not on the record the one that is closest to me now, a man sitting in darkness remembering the fateful, fitful past: melt back into the night babe, everything in here is made of stone, there's nothing in here moving ,and anyway I'm not alone…not alone, the images are living, dividing the past and the future into skinner box mazes I'm traveling lost and blind in, stealing booze from cabinets or getting the Colt 45's the aunt left on the back porch for us in paper bags as if they were some kind of Halloween candies for young men drinking to get high, to escape from the place where they were like the advertisement for downhill racer I would adapt as my credo years later staring out over the frozen wastes of the utica fields drunk and stoned into hallow man numbness…how long does it take a man to get from where he's at?...how long, I couldn't imagine it then, can't even now. Making the scene, whatever it was, still not someone who belonged but not treated as an untouchable, invisible useful as something to mock when all else failed or to ridicule or just piss on in the showers after an especially humiliating gym class, now a full-fledged rebel without a cause answering the call of the graduating youth service with my girlfriend and fellow seniors in the congregational youth service that I would begin my portion of, not mouthing the usual platitudes of god and man and youth and obedience to the cause and the right way whatever that was, standing up and saying, quoting the play and the dictum we worshipped from Marat/ Sade, Satan's prayer “Pray O pray to him Our Satan which art in hell they kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in hell forgive us our good deeds and deliver us from holiness Lead us Lead us into temptation forever and ever” a prelude to a short speech on the hypocrisy of church and state that brought a stunned silence and a communal, massive, reproving look from the little how townsfolk, row upon row of protestant good people all gone now, that last time I would be welcome inside that church until a generation later at a memorial service for my poor, dead, crazy as they got mother. And I soon I would be writing a Marat/ Sade of my own blindly going headlong down a vortex of my briefing for a descent to hell and it would go like this: Marat/ Sade, as seen from inside, the Mineola Playhouse, a BxW Still Life 1966 This is not the theater as we know it but something artificial called Psycho Drama. The character named Corday is afflicted with the disease of sleeping, insomnabulism, a walking infirmity common to night creatures, that causes them to walk the zombie life, without direction. In the bathtub is a man whose dreaming has caused his skin to erupt in sores that can only be assuaged by laving, a process similar to washing with lava also known as trial by fire. The wicked one who claims to be the Director of farces is False as the word sadist is not written in the Blue Dictionary of Life as seen lying open by the tub where Marat has left it after Corday has dispatched him into blessed sleep forever with her knife. On the walkway ringing the stage, looking down on this Live Performance are the inmates, howling and jabbering their approval of what is enacted on the live stage. When the house lights dim, framing us, the inmates in hospital gowns turn grey, then black until all that can be seen is the red fire lights of our eyes flickering on and off in the dark. And I was in the dark, 1966, nursing pints of contraband Vodka, sitting in the ball field dugout after dark drinking it straight on the edge of nowhere, the edge of the abyss, the edge of the sixties getting ready to jump off, screaming at the top of my lungs “It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding”, a carpe diem, live for today, national anthem for the doomed youth I was becoming faster than light years, faster than speeding bullets, speedballs, and marijuana faster than the tickets that are exploding all around me, this death on an installment plan midnight express, the milk train doesn't stop here anymore, up against it all the way, Ma, I'm only bleeding waiting in the shadows for that nineteenth nervous breakdown to claim it's most willing, its newest victim, getting her mother's little helpers screaming inside, hey you get off of my cloud, the smoke ringed clouds of nowhere 1966.
The poems & stories in this collection is a representation of the hovering stain of the year 2020. A year filled with disease, greed, hate, depression, moments of unity that only feel empty being overseen by a world of dictators. The sadness, the lies, the deprived. That is the New Disease Streets Collection.
Bio: David L O’Nan is a poet, short story writer, editor living in Southern Indiana. He is the editor for the Poetry & Art Anthologies “Fevers of the Mind Poetry and Art. and has also edited & curated other Anthologies including 2 inspired by Leonard Cohen and an upcoming one inspired by Bob Dylan. He has self-published works under the Fevers of the Mind Press “The Famous Poetry Outlaws are Painting Walls and Whispers” “The Cartoon Diaries” & “New Disease Streets” (2020). A compilation of 4 books “Bending Rivers” a micro poem collection “Lost Reflections” and new book “Before the Bridges Fell” (look under books tab in Amazon) under Cajun Mutt Press & “His Poetic Last Whispers” (2022) David has had work published in Icefloe Press, Dark Marrow, Truly U, 3 Moon Magazine, Elephants Never, Royal Rose Magazine, Spillwords, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cajun Mutt Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Voices From the Fire. Twitter is @davidLONan1 and for the book @feversof Join Facebook Group: Fevers of the Mind Poetry & Arts Group . Facebook Author page DavidLONan1 and goodreads page is https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18366060.David_L_O_Nan
My writing teacher
Most of us working the phones used a handle. An alias in case some cop or speed freak or infatuated client tried to track us down. A persona to match the online personality. Tom was Moodus. Harry was Speed. Women tended to choose literary names. Sharon went by Emily. Ginger—more radical by far—called herself George. “Eliot or Sand?” Speed asked her once. “If you bothered to read them,” George answered, “you’d know.” Sharp tongued among ourselves. Acid wit. Gallows humor.
It was 1969. Anything could happen at any time. And when we weren’t working the phones, we were on edge. We were Damien Switchboard, a crisis hotline and intervention center, located on the no-man’s land borderline separating San Mateo County, California, from San Francisco. Our goal was to buffer between counter culture freaks and The Man, to keep our people off the street and outside institutions as long as humanly possible. We provided drug counseling, draft counseling, pregnancy and abortion counseling, birth control information and sometimes basic sex ed. We did mental health referrals. We kept track of crash pads—places where a stranger could spend the night—and safe houses where runaways and victims of domestic violence could shelter. We maintained a rides board, hooking up people who had wheels with people needing transportation. We talked frightened mystics down from bad acid trips. But most often we just “rapped,” as we called it then. With the rusty percolator on overdrive, and KSAN humming in the background, we would talk to lonely, dispossessed, disheartened people all night long. A lot of our work was suicide prevention.
The youngest and most romantic of the group, I took risks. I did not use a handle. I was 16; it was the 60s; I believed in a kind of fate. And besides I’d already changed my name once. At the Switchboard I was Joan—plain Joan. The same name I used in my other life—not my real life, since things at Damien were always a little more intense and therefore a little more real—but my offline life, my student-poet-cashier-coffeehouse life. At Damien, I worked the Friday night shift, the second-worst shift of the week. When the phone wasn’t ringing, I wrote dark poetry and long, complicated journal entries. “Write what you know,” my high school Creative Writing teacher used to scrawl on my papers. But I was writing what I knew. Transcribing really. The horror stories I heard on Friday nights. My writing teacher meant well, but he didn’t have a fucking clue.
Bio: Joan Hawkins is a writer and spoken word performer, who focuses mainly on
creative memoir. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Avalanches of Poetry, Fevers of the Mind, the Performing Arts Journal, Plath Profiles, and Sand.
Two poemsare forthcoming in a special poetry issue of The Ryder Magazine. She and Kalynn Brower have co-edited an anthology called Trigger Warnings,
which contains one of Joan’s stories; it’s currently under consideration by Indiana University Press. “My Writing Teacher” comes from a manuscript in progress– School and Suicide.
Joan lives in Bloomington, IN with her cat Izzy Isou. She is currently the Chair of the Writers Guild at Bloomington.
Godiva Leaves Town
first published in Rhythm N Bones Lit Issue 6 : Love
In an effort to erase the shame, stories will later say she roamed through empty streets under a canopy of darkened clouds, head down, arms limp. Perhaps her husband demanded that version of the story be told. Perhaps he killed anyone who looked upon her, snuffing out the truth of what had happened, more for his sake than his wife’s. What had happened was this: There was no cloud in the sky that day. The streets were lined with men, women, children. Eyes roamed hungrily, curiously, disgustingly, shyly. Her skin rippled with goosebumps in the morning chill, nipples hardening like daggers against the intrusive stares. Her hair, the color of rust or copper, swayed against her bare body like a curtain in front of an open window. Once out of the castle’s sight, the lady took out the long knife hidden in the horse’s saddle. “She’s going to kill herself,” screamed a woman from the crowd, before a chorus of spectators began chiming in unison, urging her to turn back. But the blade didn’t so much as touch her pink skin. Drowning in her nerves, her throat moved like waves lapped beneath the surface. Then, just as suddenly as she appeared on the street, she kicked her horse and clicked her tongue, motioning for him to turn a tight corner into an alleyway. Hidden in the shadow of two stone buildings, she stretched out, her fingers and toes brushing the soft, warm hide of her beloved pet. Her hair fell over the horse’s flank and she imagined herself fusing with him; melting into his body to become some mythical creature. What life she could lead outside the city walls. Sitting up again, she felt a warmness spread between her legs at the thought of uninhibited freedom. She pulled the knife out again and held it up to her earlobe, her free hand grabbing and holding down a handful of hair as the blade violently kissed the lumped strands. She repeated until the sun sat high between the two buildings. Until sweat trickled down her body like new springs having risen to the surface. She repeated until most of her hair lay in wispy clumps around her horse’s hooves. When her horse stepped out from the shadows, the townspeople stared in disbelief. Beneath the sky’s watchful eye, bathed in the sun’s mid-morning light, Godiva clicked her tongue again and made her horse move towards the crowd. Her hair sat lop-sided and frayed around her ears; the curtains were torn down from the window so that everyone could look in. She let her horse find his own way through the town until the main gates came into view. Her back reddened in the open air with no swaying hair to protect it. Perhaps this is where the story dissolves into falsehoods of scarlet skin brought on by shame. The story shared is never as simple as a hot sun on a spring day; a woman spiting her husband with little fear to show; defiance being mistaken for its distant cousin, embarrassment, instead of any of its other sisters: Guilelessness Brazenness Provocation Behind her, the kingdom disappeared over the horizon as her horse stepped out into the world with little ceremony—the only way animals know how to maneuver through a world made lawless through man’s laws. Bio from 2019: Nikoletta Gjoni is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer living outside of Washington, DC. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Kindling Volume III, Cleaver Magazine, New Flash Fiction Review, and Riggwelter Press, among others. Her work has been previously nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau prize and Best of the Net. You can follow her on Twitter @NikiGjoni or her website at www.ngjoni.com.
with Elliot Harper:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Elliot: I’ve only recently found writing. I’ve been a reader all my life, but never found the time or confidence to start writing, something which has always been a dream of mine. In 2016, I moved to Houston, Texas with my wife, and this afforded me the opportunity to explore that dream. Although I don’t like to stick to any particular genre, my early influences are the Science Fiction of Ursula Le Guin and Iain M Banks, and the weird fiction of China Mieville, Jeff Vandermeer, and Steph Swainston, as well as the dream-like works of Haruki Murakami.
Q2: Who are some of your biggest influences today?
Elliot: Currently, my biggest influence is still China Mieville. His use of vocabulary and language in the Bas-lag series of books still blows me away no matter how many times I read them. I’ve recently written a dark fantasy book which is heavily influenced by his work.
Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing?
Elliot: I grew up in a little seaside town called Scarborough, Yorkshire, in the northeast of England. My hometown is the basis for the fictional seaside town I’ve created that features in some of my writing and four of my unpublished books called Eastborough-on-Sea.
Q4: Have any travels away from home influenced your work/describe?
Elliot: Me and my wife love to travel. For our honeymoon, we went backpacking around the world in 2011-12. Seeing all those cultures first-hand changed my life and I’m always thinking about what I saw and did in that year. When I write I remember back to the bustling markets and cities and it gives me my inspiration.
Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Elliot: I think the pivotal moment for me was when a friend of mine was published. It was at that moment that I realised that it can happen to real people that I actually know in my life. It gave me the confidence to believe that I could possibly do it as well.
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
Elliot: My favorite activities when not writing are reading (currently dark fantasy), playing games (currently The Witcher 3), and watching movies and series (mostly horror, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Aster, etc, but also anything by Denis Villeneuve, and eagerly awaiting the Dune movie in November)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9xhJrPXop4 to preview Dune
Q7: Any recent or forthcoming work you’d like to promote?
Elliot: I recently won a flash fiction competition, the Flash Vision contest by The Molotov Cocktail. This was the first time I’ve ever won anything for my writing. The story will be available to read on their website, https://themolotovcocktail.com/ within the next few weeks.
Q8: What is a favorite line of yours or others?
Elliot: Favorite quote is from Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”
Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?
Elliot: The people who have helped me most in my writing by their constant support and willingness to read my work (and listen to me talk about it endlessly) are my wife, Naomi, and my friends, Rob, John and Will.
Elliot Harper is the author of two self-published books, the dark science-fiction novella, The City around the World, and the speculative short story collection, On Time Travel and Tardiness.
His story, In the Garden, was the winner of the Flash Vision 2021 story contest by The Molotov Cocktail.
He has short stories in print as follows: Into the Forest appears in Air and Nothingness Press’s, The Wild Hunt: Stories of the Chase anthology, There’s a Dead Bear in the Pool features in Clash Book’s Black Telephone Issue 1, and Blackout features in Popshot Quarterly Magazine, The Protest Issue.
His fiction has appeared online in Issue 3 of Clash Book’s Black Telephone Magazine, Maudlin House, Neon Magazine’s Battery Pack Volume 4, Horrified Magazine, Coffin Bell Journal, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine’s #thesideshow, Storgy, Queen Mobs Teahouse, the Ghost City Review, Akashic Book’s #FriSciFi, Back Patio Press, Litro Magazine’s #StorySunday, Selcouth Station’s #2 Food Edition, Dream Noir Lit Magazine, Vagabonds: Anthology of the Mad Ones Volume 8 and Riggwelter Press.
He currently lives in Houston, Texas with my wife, Naomi, but he’s originally from Scarborough, England, although he considers Leeds to be his home. He likes to write fiction that isn’t confined by any particular genre, but leans towards the dark, the transgressive and the surreal. Find him at his website, https://www.elliotharper.com/, and on Twitter, @E_Harper_Author.