c o n v e r g e n c e:
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EDITOR'S CHOICE: lytton bell's

John Dooley


By John Dooley

Some days are much better than others. You get a postcard from someone you don’t hate. There's also a small check. The kittens play with a '57 Chevy Hot Wheels car on the wood floor. You take the check and leave the house. Lock the door. Swing open the gate and step into the wind. Hungry.

The sun acts just right, and prowling clouds move like wild boar snorting through the sky. Wind finds its way into your ears and nostrils, bringing in faintly reminiscent odors of summer storm cat piss, and the vague decaying rot of persimmon. You walk 15 zigzag blocks to the store through residential catacombs. Each house decorated with simplistic personality. A beige one, with 16 blossoming potted red carnation bushes catches the eye. The sea green mist contemporary, with a single shrub in the front yard shaped like a buxom farm wife. A shaggy overgrown shack with pumpkin plants cushioning the parameter. All this on the way to the store.

Not the stupid 24-hour store, "The Stupor Market." The fancy store. You grab the green-retard-sized cart and hunching, stalk the aisles. You get the sea scallops. You get the stinky, runny cheese with sticky rivers of blue goo spidering through it. You get radicchio & white onion, shiitake & limes. One albino eggplant. Sunset splashed Queen Anne cherries, pounds of them; you stuff innocent handfuls into a paper bag like a savage scavenger. 4 coffee-colored plums. An Australian Cabernet and a Kenwood table red. Baguette the shape and size of an elk horn. Pay for the shit and tip the dog outside tied, with a quick scratch on the muzzle. She leaps at the scent of your groceries, but you’re already gone.

Cut home through the park. Past dykes on both sides in two fields playing Knock 'em Sock 'em softball, yelling at each other impatiently. Whacking screaming, shrunken skulls down the third base line. Better men than most men. Better men than me. Enter the trees. Alter course for the house.

Bust in door. Ignite coils. Smack the pan. Blast scallops with eggplant, mushroom, Kenwood, a smash of dill weed and salt. Squeeze that lime. Flip in air, catch with plate. Drink the bottle down. Eat the food. Crush the fruit into your mouth with impunity. Open the Australian. Pour it. Drink it until it misses your mouth and spills right down your shirt. Forget the scallops were sandy. Drink the wine. See the empty Hot Wheels car on the lonely floor. Wonder where kittens hide from giants. Remember the postcard. Forget that you were hungry. Forget what day it is.

Ready by Lynn Crounse
Ready by Lynn Crounse


By John Dooley

The first punch takes you completely off guard
The whiteness of it
The same feeling you'll have when death blow comes
The whole stupid inevitability of it all

If you're lucky, that great bitch Irony
will raise her frothing head
and add a litle something interesting at the end, to ice the cake

You can't love your enemy
Your enemy can't love you.

The hammer falls, the bell chimes, hit man, bullet, janice
The seemingly unimportant bald guy in the convertible Mercedes
With the blue .22 and a spot, like a black quarter, on his heart
When your time is up there will be no discussion

Find something to do in the meantime
Start a fight or make things right
Know your death will be glorious and unique
No one will ever die like you
That's all we've ever been promised by anyone

A fight isn't all that bad
Compared to lifelessness and mundane parables
a fight is nothing
To hang in a cell from a shoestring
Must be better than living on one and eating raw shit day after day for 80 years

And the river goes flat, and the river runs brown, and the frogs scream as if being torn from the sheets of existence, and the blood boils and steam becomes flame, and Justice comes on three wheels backwards, and holly cuts into Christmas, and Love takes a knife, and Steel runs deep into families, and words cannot stack without paper

You fight and you fight well
and you fight endlessly for a decent, memorable death
Guaranteed to be one of a kind
Some just sound better than others
They're all worthy of attention

(The first punch, and something snaps
She never should have hit him)

There is a soul
There is an afterlife and there is something wondrous and beyond

our present capacity to comprehend, besides the proliferation of Olestra in our all too recently fat free nation

Someone is going to be there to judge

Gone by Rosario Romero
Gone by Rosario Romero


By John Dooley

It seems like I've always smoked
Like Mark Twain, I came into the world asking for a light

In the smoke of my childhood
no simple lake stroll or valley was without wonder
No bug or stick less to me than the rumbling belly of August sunsets

At 7, I swung on vines in places that have forgotten to exist
With vultures as my songbirds I developed a treasonous smirk
smoking hay straw in the barn

At 10, humor came and branded my ass, and my merriment became authentic as anything that ever attracted me, except the allure of smolder
At 15, I could dish shit out, but couldn't take it
Not that many could at that age
and taunted
usually in the school smoking area
I always came out swinging

At 16, I met my match
In the course of an argument over brand favorites, I punched Jim Page in the gut so many times my arms became weary and I stopped swinging
I couldn't figure out how he could take such a beating
I was punching right through him
And then he precisely dropped me into a tiny coma
my head remembers to this day

Standing over me, Jim offered his hand with a straight face

After school, we lit up outside his house
Then, regretfully, went inside petrified, to where Jim's father bathed
Cigar in teeth, a blonde block of meat with vicious freckles, steaming naked, cock floating in gray suds
Thick cigar smoke ground through my blue bloody nose like pepper

Jim's mother was in there
washing the old man dutifully with a faded black cloth while he triumphantly farted in the bath water
They made us stand there and watch for a long time
She washed his crotch while humming

"You boys got caught fighting at school"
He crooked his finger at Jim, beckoning him closer
He hit Jim so hard a cloudburst of water followed his body across the bathroom
smashing him against the open bathroom door
Jim stood up dripping as if nothing happened

"Jim won," I mumbled dumbly, "He kicked my ass"
I thought I was going to pass a kidney

The old man took a wet draw on cigar
Blew a ring into my face
"Of course he kicked your ass
That's why I'm letting you off the hook
Otherwise your ass would be mine"

Jim's mother smiled and he splashed at her, playfully soaking her breasts
"I also heard you boys have been smoking cigarettes
That shit'll kill you quicker than sin" he belched
"No more fighting at school. Shut the door on your way out"

I never hit Jim again, why bother?
What were my juvenile punches to a boy who took it habitually from a 200 pound killer?
He was way out of my league
Jim eventually graduated to Vacaville State Prison
where cigarettes are currency

At 19, I befriended a boxer whose attitude I stole
I never saw him hit anyone who didn't swing first
But when they did, he always put out the lights

Don't ever let anyone talk you into a fight he said
But if they swing first, take 'em to town
Look 'em in the eye
Don't bother with the gut, John
Tag 'em between the nose and forehead
Then upper cut to the chin again and again
Walk away when they're down
Show mercy
Remember to breathe
Apologize to the widow like a gentleman

John Dooley by Kristy Lou Photography

John Dooley by Kristy Lou Photography

John Dooley lives as a Portland (OR) writer. His poetry and prose have appeared internationally, on-line and in print, in magazines, newspapers, poetry journals, anthologies. He has self-published over 40 miniature poetry chapbooks. He is and has been a cartoonist, columnist, features writer, non-fiction author, essayist, and humorist. Dooley's spoken-words-with-music-played duo, Hydropods, has released six full albums and toured the west for 20 years as of 2014.

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