Habit and Route




by Rob Rice



Broken man speaks to

His wife on the line

“I don’t blame her”

In response to her saying she’s not coming home anymore

Startled to hear it aloud


He almost notices his eyes are dry

from not having been blinking


Somewhat to her, somewhat to himself, somewhat to god and the accounting

This man has said before “that’s the most insulting thing anyone has ever said to me”

as he is a pretentious man


Although that stems from the fear


He feels like the sound an empty can makes when it’s flicked

But heard through the wrong end of a binocular

He see’s a kid on the sidewalk with his mom, telling him something about

the propriety of street crossing

And he realizes the kid is a lot like a chicken egg

still bound primarily by one edge of time


Babies must dream in such abstractions and with such potent simultaneity of confusion and comprehension

he thinks.


He lost that in his teenage years, an understanding of affective co-incidence


He grew up and delivered himself, returned

when he remembered it


The same thing when, noticing that, on their first night together sexually,

she did not have a flattened stomach, he congratulated himself on his maturity

Always sucking off the rotten yoke, hardened orange and just below the rind.


He impaled his knee in early life, on an icicle, and after it melted it reveled,

him briefly windowed:

a subcutaneous gurgling fat held up knee’s dry skin.


A busload passes and on it more diversity of intention than can be measured

but just fills any space easily like gas.


One man is foreign, so much taller and built for a whole different life,

a life with so much pain and so: so much joy

that at most the other passengers get depressed by the intensity of his and his kind’s celebration and music.


It’s an unpopular music now too, on the surface because it seems naïve

but really more likely because it’s a devastating thing to be reminded of the potential for joy.


His hands are long and so slender

pronounced at the knuckles like arthritis while he’s young.


Another on the bus likes to show off her boyfriend

pouts in his absence.


Some riders ride every day and so know the couple

and unanimously they dislike her

and unanimously they came to realize it one day when the boyfriend didn’t board.


She wears a hood those days

prominently more sweats and soft fabrics

like his absence is flu

we’re all coming down with.




Hey, just a brief message from us overseers, whoever we may be:

If it turns out that you like anything you see here, and know someone who might feel similarly, pass it on!

That would be so cool of you.

It seems like some people are already doing this, as with each new post, more and so likely new people are being reached.

That’s awesome.






by Rob Rice



Finding himself on his knee

For the first time

Communing drunk

With a looming stranger

Whose helper’s motive is likely vanity?


But it could have gone just as easily the other way

That dangerous edge

Of sudden starving


Could have found himself

Snapping like the outing twig in a stalking

A bone not his

Just as easily

He could have


A real random nothing of circumstance

Deciding the difference

Between supplication and sin


Refined crude cowardice

Them equal, inevitable products?

Or one in the other in the

Same translations of the same text

Inscriptions revealed

By a broad and blanket washing

Disinterred and still breathing predecessors

Overtly returned to the wheel


The release-need insists

And mode specificity fails to relate

Apology and attack

As long as exertion

Liberates some fluid like a lancing


There’s no more a man there than before or after

But at a glance a god residually a glint on him

It is in their nature to be back


He stands there in that robe, the poet of Life of Frank, and greets me incongruously, not with sleep but some more insipid vapidity in his eyes. He looks ceded, the author of Little Maggot Existence, with his dress pants and gaudy blue suede loafers on under that robe, that equally-coffee-and-wine-stained stolen Best Western Turkish mimic. I can’t really tell if he recognizes me, if he recognizes any of this, if he remembers the interview or even the magazine, the visionary of A Brief Introduction to Astrophysics, he looks decidedly not home standing there in his doorway.


But then he raises his sunken head to meet my gaze, the bard of Examples of Defense Mechanisms, leaking that vandal’s smile, his eye’s blue momentarily orange, the mastermind of Dangerous Arithmetic says, once again,


“Come in.”




By Jamie Thomson



Walk tall! they said I walked

tall I hit my head I only hit it once

yet now look at me walk It’s pathetic




I stood around contemplating the many uses

of a fish There were so many! Then a bell

in the other room rang It being the era of the bell

I obeyed I entered the room It was so empty!

I removed the socks from where they had been draped

upon my ears and stuffed them in my mouth I began

to hop from foot to foot The bell ring was good




A sinking boat is bad for the people onboard

but a fun little brief new thing for the fishies




An old man died They put the dust in the corner Then

the maid fell sick She lay in bed The dust in the corner

remained The dust in the corner remained once the children

grew up and long after the door had been shut the dust

in the corner remained Little changed but they didn’t mind

They were happy that way They hid all sorts of things

in the dust in the corner Years passed and the dust

only grew The dust is now a mound No it is a mountain

not a mound a mountain of dust in the middle of that room




The last train was leaving Hop on!

they yelled The last train is leaving!

Where’s it going? I asked

It is the last train! It is leaving!




The light is on I see

the man The light is off

I can’t see him but know

he’s there I never sleep




I leapt out of bed The assumption

is categorically false! I cried out It was

nothing It was the middle of the night

I must have thought the rat in the corner

was someone else A distant train

let off some steam just then Sounding

the weeping of many small things




I missed my home so much I built

a little version of my home

in my head It looks good!

I fixed all the gutters Then

I killed the neighbors I mean

left them out I wouldn’t ever kill anything

except in my head It’s allowed


Are You Getting Interested?


Are You Getting Interested

by Rob Rice



Are you getting interested

Or just getting “A”s?


“Your discussion of relevance


The sunset I’m overhearing

Is necessarily false

Regardless of the subject”

Which… admittedly I missed


You are a frayed family

You man, daughter, and lawyer

What happened to mom

Happened to the girl too



Scene: “Sex-devoid cow births, us interfacing with animals”

Getting in some real rural goodness

And with glove-induced peristaltic motion a

Hand full of shit

Imposter offspring she has no choice but slowly to learn to love

As at least they validate her candidacy


Coordinate careerism, in hiding the brute away

Keeping at bay the biology, taxonomic entry

Jagged composition like spectacle stones in ridges and pepto-viscera bubbles

In colors there

That make seem clear

There is nothing you’ve invented:

Preemptive rocks, sharp peaked churn in open oil

Linear time

Displayed in rock

Crashing into a wall of dead man’s envy

Like a test dummy history

But, like, suspecting


We imagine the distain of extinct or even other animals

But it’s no cold expressive azurite


“Shh,” it says, “just wait”


Pursue a career, concreting in of the brute

Sealant of slick troggy tendency

Capsule’s fistula reveals an

Apathetic wringing of necks a

Twisting off of tops

Even still, unconvinced,

Lip service to rocks to

Miles of rocks to no

Shortage of rocks?

Bruised, scabbed and squat rocks

Oxford commas?

As if!

Spathic Andean ranges!

This is your mother!


Your aspiration excludes

You from the revolution


Amazing, how his knocking actually gets less insistent, the brute

Like he does, he must admit, have to concede the fundaments of value in

Your careering:

That career is your currency!

That is your screen!

Your subduing warren of summonses

Your netted neural diaper

Your Hot Knot

That screen is your home!




I need to empty out


All this acidic stuff in my sternum is aberrantly dissolving pennies


that I could have saved up


                                      and spent









Trait Bait


Trait Bait

by Rob Rice





You moldy batter

You perpetually unmade bed

You lustrous ass castle

You shin kick

You plutocratic wino lizard

You slimy minky spare moustache

You look like you have Vaseline on your forehead

You look like you missed a spot

Like you’ve been eating heavy

You queasy week

You floozy wacker

You winter

You sidewinding detour

You disappointing scenic route

You misplaced inflection

You wrong prosody

You intentionally bashful actor above earnesty

You wildly misleading epithet

You crooked pedagogue, dating down for energy

You wax smirk, perpetual and frustrating

You clean kitchen

You box of individually packaged catheters

You limp whistle misfire

You headache scented can liner

You pock

You genetically thick calf

You convincing faker

Making tactically interested eye contact

And bouncing my story along

Like a beach ball in a concert

With your perfectly timed Mhms

You sleek prep

You coveted exclusive item

You inconvenient time to choke on water

You irresponsible hypnotist

You wasted little snack

You uninformative docket

You overbearing outfit

You third retelling of an endearing rescue story

By your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend

You checkered past

You boring secret

You wispy pubis

You outer of embellishments

You territorial co-worker

You mostly broth soup

Lacking salt

You losing Keno chit

You obvious cosmetic

You temporary stint on an endangered species list

Garnering you countless centuries of sympathy

You responsible life decision

You comfortable optimist

You recipient of due credit

You exchange of winks among strangers

You thirtieth second of a thirty second stretch

You hurt bird

You restaurant staple

You champion of an overused idiom

You isolating tinny laugh

You topical hybrid word

Representing something useless

You skort

You rigorous process

You meticulous and low yield mill

You unanimously retained decommissioned sneaker

You ambiguous flavor

Not listed in the dish description

You’re on the tip of my tongue

You discreet handoff of documents

You most important sentence

You got redacted

You effortless first timer

You multi-dimensional talent

You lost troop

You cursed storefront

Where nothing ever survives

You profitable anomaly

You gracefully resolved misunderstanding

You happy couple at the café

You make everyone miserable

You indistinct spectrum

You tropical hotel library

That nobody judges

You suggestive animal cracker

You uninterested half

Of a pair of mortal enemies

You beloved videotape

Of your garbled baby self

Trying to explain about the switch at the hospital

You forgotten detail

You third day of a ten-day vacation

You entrepreneurial genius

Pitching your idea for a chain of cheap hotels

Modeled after a dry cleaner’s

But with hammocks rotating around the rack

You bleach stain

You domestic irony

You succession of toe stubbings

You expectedly abandoned tidal pool

You single missing piece of a board game

You forgotten one of very many spent dollars


Do you want to get in this car?

Apparently, he’s not even that prodigal



He left us, folks.


Maybe, him citing opportunity, circumstance, and spontaneity, we rationalized it, maybe it was seamless. But there was that nag, that lingering incantatory itch: “it’s us, it’s us.” So we tried to comfort each other with “it’s the fattiness of the doughnuts, the romance of the rose,” but despite it, we darkened, worsened, our little justifications sating us less and then less. Collapsed into a pile, us, crying out, “IT WAS US! HE LEFT US!” we writhed, sweating, and then, like an Appalachian exorcism, the fever broke.


And then, after we had moved on and remarried, thinking him dead in the war, his letters arrived.


Now, piece by piece: He’s Back.






by Jamie Thomson





I am master I put the objects in the proper

zones I stuff the ducks in a brown sack Are

you laughing? Don’t you dare laugh I could

smash your face in you complete zero I am

master I put the objects in the zones I do




I pledge allegiance to just about anything with money I need

money pretty much all the time now The toaster broke

is why I can’t live without my pretty green toaster Ask anyone

who knows me Ovens are too strong and the sun is so

far These days are a lot like nights in a box in an abandoned

warehouse cellar I know the mice can hear me down here

in this box in this cellar of mine but just don’t care about me

nor my toaster I had so many chances! I had so much love

it was repulsive I wore it like a rug It was heavy and nothing

is worse than heavy at that age I must have burned 10,000

effigies a day Ripped out a few good hearts (one my own)




A man started so humble He lived

a while in a small wood shack

in the back of someone’s head

who didn’t know it yet It was peaceful

if not a little lonely out there

in that shack in the backcountry

amongst the endless trees which bore a few sad leaves sometimes

but also not The man

set about perfecting himself

It was hard work It took a really long time

but then happened At that moment

a figure appeared on the horizon

She stood eyeing the man who was burning now so luminous below




Here’s a man made of string We hang him

up around the house He begs us

to take him down and we just laugh Then

one of us unwinds some so we can tie knots

all through him It must hurt a lot He moans

whenever we pull tight It’s good we have him

We need him We wouldn’t get along so well without him




Look at this old house Someone

must have built it a long time ago

and then died A different person

is living there now Maybe it’s a son

or daughter or a son’s or daughter’s

son or daughter Or maybe someone else

just found it empty and went in




I figured what the heck a cloud, a cloud

what’s a cloud really but a footstool to stars

and beyond They said that’s insane you’ll die

so fast I stepped out the window of my favorite

penthouse In case you couldn’t tell I’m super

rich It worked! I stood on a cloud! People

in passing planes waved and cheered My shadow

was immense It covered all sorts of great stuff





There’s this hole right in the middle

of my life I only just noticed

the other day A lot has fallen in so far






What’s the point of other people

if they always leave at night




Newark Maid




Newark Maid

by Rob Rice



A lot of bricks were laid

Back before we had cell phones and DNA

There were heaved bundles and scratches to show, weepers

Red thumbs and lazy monikers


And unsavory jobs like stretcher and bleeder, fitting Kid

For balls and amorous winter ambling

As the luck bandages the loss


Slender gaseous output

Jains covering their mouths

Because of freedom of speech or something

Hoping that what they can say

Will be misinterpreted rampantly

And eventually approximate something powerful

And sell them copies


Bloated blessings that wheeze from a beached seal

Hot from end of life rush and decomp.

Sand gets implicated in so much movement

Unfairly roped into various arguments

That pretty much just go in circles


Things aren’t always what they seem

At Gentle Dental

The grace of god is in the files

An order of women and men

Cleansed and drilled on behaviors

Like getting out from between the bone

An accumulated evidence there


Seek out passage and potatoes

And boil on the boat

Glimmering copper beaconess

Isn’t looking like herself these days

Verdigris ghillie

Lichen of cash and coin