Trying Not Trying
Sabres, Gentlemen! Sabres!
What if Charles Bukowski
had never lived
or beautiful Paula Hinchman?
What if I had never known
my childhood friends
like Randy Burruss
or Marty Osborne or Doonie Ward?
What if I had not drunk vodka
with Mike Fitzpatrick
or started on beer
with John Spears?
Or what about beautiful Vicky Hill
and David Banner and Tom Blackburn
and Philip Bishop?
What if I hadn’t gotten into karate
when I was fourteen?
What if beautiful Margaret
had not been at that high school reunion?
Or what if I never read Brautigan
and really what if Bukowski
had never been born?
What if I had never found my Jill
through all of it?
That’s the terrifying question.
What if I had not found her?
What then would have become
Lessons and Lovers
by Roy Peak
A Movement Towards Heart
Last week we featured a review of Lessons & Lovers, the latest album from Wonky Tonk and the High Life. Since the worldwide pandemic began a few months back, Ms. Tonk has been staying in Ecuador. Here's a short interview we did via email.
Roy: First off, for those new to Wonky Tonk, how about a short introduction?
Wonky Tonk: Wonk is a movement towards heart. Tunes are a byproduct, a language.
Many people ask “what genre is this?” I say: Wonk. (magic)
There isn’t a particular genre or style because Wonky Tonk is transformation, love, creation, surrender.
It is a performance, it is honesty, it is an unmasked mirror.
The choice to see things as they are, imperfect and full of possibilities.
Wonky Tonk and the High Life
Lessons & Lovers
by Roy Peak
Imagine a life put on hold. You're a musician about to release your third album. You travel to Ecuador for a quick trip and plan on returning to the States just in time for the album release and ensuing tour. (With Justin Townes Earle, no less. R.I.P.) Then the pandemic strikes, gigs are cancelled left and right, and with the current state of political and societal affairs in your home country, you decide that it just may be best for you to stay put indefinitely.
This is what happened to Jasmine Poole, AKA Wonky Tonk. All these months later, and she's still there.
Wonky Tonk definitely goes her own unique way, you can hear a little bit of Lucinda Williams, a smattering of Shari Elf, and even some Tywanna Jo Baskette (intended or not) and I'm loving Ms. Wonk for it. (Much like Elf and Baskette, Tonk's songs are witty, heartfelt, quirky, and wholly original.) Tonk rocks hard and tough, she's not afraid to get noisy when the song calls for it, and the contrast between an abled noisy rhythm section and Tonk's high, sweet voice adds even more angst on many of these tunes.
by Jarad Johnson
I’m currently laying in bed sneezing my brain out after accidentally putting my face in some ragweed yesterday. One of the things I’m really bad at is sitting around. I. Can’t. Stand. It. I always have something to do or a project to complete (or a blog post to write!). But as I’ve been sitting here, seething as I see all the things I need to do, I’ve been thinking about some things. Specifically, what my priorities are. I guess that’s normal for someone my age who graduated from college and is searching for a job. You wonder what is important to you. And I realized that I haven’t really wanted to touch the garden for a few weeks for a few reasons. Firstly, sometimes life gets in the way. When there’s a lot going on around you, I sometimes just don’t want to brave the heat. Secondly, I’ll have to move before the year’s done, and tending a garden that won’t be yours for much longer feels a tad defeatist, although I still try to keep all the weeds at bay, but I certainly wouldn’t plant anything new. Although the garden design part of my brain is begging for some hydrangeas in front of the house. That’ll come in time, in a different house, of course.
Writers Are Kinda
by Jarad Johnson
Writers are, as a general rule, a strange bunch. It takes someone who’s at least a little strange to concoct wild fantasies and make up stories. I found myself having a conversation with…myself. Debating with myself about whether or not to include a storyline in a piece I’m writing. I’m not sure if me, myself or I won that argument, but it did make me think about what a writer was. Ooohhhhh, self-reflection, I say to myself, so philosophical you are, young padawan. Shut up, you’re insufferable, I say, also to myself. And so on and so forth.
by Ahmad Al-
The Gypsy Prayer
Sometimes I think I am
less than more
than a human who’s
the brutality of being
vulnerable and pray
without being known
the gypsy prayer
In the house of God,
most of the people
choose to take
advantage of my
Meanwhile, when I am
around my sinner
friends, they taught
me “enough is
I dress the way I dress
I talk the way I talk
without any limitations
I walk the way I walk
within my boundaries
and I’ll die the way I
wished with the
Being happy with
someone you love
more of a curse than a
gift, as being
creates, hides emotions
and tears whenever
my mind, body, soul
slowly bleeds to
by Jarad Johnson
I think as readers your tastes in books ebbs and flows, much like the way a river crests in spring and dries out in the summer drought. You can go through, “reading slumps,” where nothing is appealing at all, and you can go through what I refer to as, “Book Mania,” where every story grabs at your attention. I have been in somewhat of a reading slump for most of August (where did August go, by the way? Has time truly lost all meaning? I’m still stuck in July!). Every book I picked up I felt like I had read before. Sometimes, every plot feels redone, and every storyline too familiar to be entertaining. This is when I fall back on old favorites: Tolkien, Harry Potter, and all the other high Fantasy novels that helped tolerate the enormous imbecility that surrounded me in high school.
What It's Like To
Walk Past a Cemetery
by Jarad Johnson
I am a walker, not a runner. Every day that it’s not raining, I’m out walking up and down the road that I live on. There’s quite a bit of scenery, and thankfully it's mostly trees and peoples yards. The yards in my neighborhood vary greatly. There’s a cute blue house with some pretty standard cottage garden plantings. There’s my house, with still far too much grass (both in the flowerbeds and otherwise) and there’s a few houses which appear to be professionally landscaped, by which I mean, boring. No offense neighbors, but your yards need a little color. I also live in an area where somehow the woods have escaped construction. It’s always nice seeing what random changes pop up there. Of course, there are also people who clearly don’t like to (or are too busy) to work in their yards. And then there are those few yards that I have thrown seeds in, just because I felt sorry for them. I don’t know if the people who lived there wanted cosmos next to their mailbox, but they certainly got it. It looks better, anyway.
Calling the World
and The Poetry Society of America
We could all use a lifeline right now and what could be better than poetry? Saint Flashlight is partnering with the Poetry Society of America to bring us just that. We've featured Saint Flashlight here before - they're two poets and good friends who bring poetry into the public sphere. Unfortunately, the public sphere is a little dicey right now due to the pandemic. That's where dialing for poetry comes in.
The Thin Hungry Man Has an Idea
...and it Hurts
By Julie Carpenter
The Thin Hungry Man is on the move again...before we catch up with him, let's go back and see how he got into this mess in the first place.
Once upon a time in a deep, dark forest far, far away, a very tall and incredibly thin man was hiking through a large and beautiful forest. He was very thin because he had no food. He had no food because there was not even one grocery store in the whole forest. However, he never managed to die because he was, in fact, only a storybook man and not a real man at all. In story books, of course, death does not come for the asking or the wishing; it comes at the will of the author. This thin storybook man suffered only from the incredible thinness mentioned above, and of course, a more incredible hunger, all because the author who had created him didn’t allow him to die and because she hadn't included a grocery (or even a mini-mart) of any kind in the forest. The most heartbreaking part of all was that the poor man didn't even realize that there was no such thing as food in the forest, and so he kept hiking endlessly in the hope that eventually he would find food. Perhaps the author was really no good at all at characterization; at any rate she had given the poor man very little in the way of sense or knowledge before abandoning the story, which now resided in a red paper folder inadvertently tossed under her couch. With his precarious world unlikely to be disturbed, the Thin Hungry Man was trapped in a plot which was unlikely to be resolved. It could be said that the only real sense or knowledge that the Thin Hungry Man had was of a lack; his only drive was the gnawing hunger. This hunger formed all there was of his character; it was his only gift.
The rest of the creation, if one surveyed it, seemed perfect. The forest was absolutely ideal. It was lush and beautiful, a virgin forest- completely peaceful except for the confused wanderings of the Thin Hungry Man. The trees were widely spaced and their branches and leaves laced themselves together over most of the forest, leaving the sunlight to filter through a canopy of emerald with fragments of gold flickering here and there and beautiful clearings filled with warm, clear light. One of these clearings contained a lovely little pond in the very middle of it, with a few darting silvery fish playing in the clear, clear water. There were birds and squirrels frolicking in the awning of trees. There were rabbits skipping about on the green floor of the forest. Snakes and bears and lions were never to be seen. It might have come from a fairy tale such a lovely scene it was, not too original perhaps but enticing nonetheless, and nicely done in its way. However, the land outside the forest appeared to be a huge void of nothingness. It was as if the author had had no idea what to do with it, or perhaps she simply had not done anything with it yet, or perhaps there was a reason for the existence or non-existences of the nothing. But to the Thin Hungry Man it was the wall that formed his prison.
The Thin Hungry Man wandered through the beauty day after lonely day with no thought of anything but his hunger. He did not ponder the reasons that he seemed to be surrounded by nothing. He did not curse the hand that had created him. He simply searched night and day for something that would cure the ache in his belly. And so the Thin Hungry Man found himself alone, utterly and completely alone in his world, not that he'd ever known himself to be otherwise. The absence of his creator made little difference in his paltry life. It went on much as it had before in an endless and meaningless search for food. Of course, his search would have been made easier by far had he had a better idea what it was he was looking for. He had a vague and distant idea about food. He somehow knew that there was in existence something that would stop the pain in his middle. Unfortunately, nothing that he found in the forest seemed to match his half-formed ideas of food. His brain couldn't seem to pull his fibrous, hand-me-down thoughts together in any kind of coherent pattern. They swirled about bumping into one another and scattering, holding out the promise of food without making clear the actions to be taken. Still he clung quite fiercely to that tiny shimmering hope. It was indeed a marvelous feat of emotional will, to be accomplished by someone so ignorant and weak as himself. So each day at sunrise he once more got up and, weary and hungry though he was, traversed the forest in search of breakfast, and quite sadly continued the search through lunch and dinner.
Many times in his quest he had come upon the little pond, and sometimes on those occasions he sat in front of it for a time and looked at himself reflected in the water. Each time he noticed his reflection in the water, a multitude of half-formed thoughts came rushing in upon the image, and he always sat very still, hoping to capture one and decipher its meaning. That image of himself, himself and not himself, had given him a vague and curious wondering about otherness. Had he not been so hungry it might have been a more absorbing interest. There were many fish, all as alike as possible, and yet separate. The only other thing like himself that he had seen was this shivering green and gold image in the water. And since he couldn’t see himself very well, even that was conjecture. But the image in the water had hands, like his hands, and moved when he moved. This was a poor reflection of the partnered dance of the many fish, flickering and flashing one behind the other, now reflecting, now opposing each other's movements.
He didn't sit pondering these things for very long though. He was too hungry. The thought of eating his forest companions did not occur to him and he had no one to teach him how to hunt or gather food. And he might have been hard pressed in his weakened state to catch any of the quick happy creatures in the forest. He had once tried grass like the rabbits but it did nothing to stop the pain.
The search for food went on and on. Considering that it was happening inside the pages of a story and not in reality as non-fictional people experience it, there is no way to assess exactly how long that was. To the sad man trapped in the reality of the incessant hunger it must have seemed just one second short of eternity. It could have indeed been endless, had it not been for a rather unexpected turn of events. One day, as always, he was hiking through the forest in search of food, when suddenly it came to him. He realized that there was no food in the forest.
The thought struck him so hard that he fell down. It was the first time that a fully formed idea had presented itself to him. But it was not the thought itself, as much as the extremely disconcerting nature of the idea that affected him in this way. The thought that there was simply nothing in the forest that matched his poor ideas of food was too much. He realized that there was no longer any point in his one ritual, the daily search for sustenance. He lay on the ground and cried. He cried until darkness came and the moon rose in its shimmering, distant beauty and put him uneasily to sleep.
And so his first real thought was not a happy one. It was only a knowledge of the deficiency of his world. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would never find what he must have.
When the Thin, Hungry Man woke up the next morning he jumped up ready to start his search once more, and then he realized. There was no more need to search. This fact abruptly deprived his life of all meaning. He suddenly found himself facing questions, questions that were very difficult for a hungry, weak brain on the morning after the world has fallen apart. If there was no food to be found in the forest, where did one look for food? The edge of the forest seemed to be the edge of everything. He could not see beyond its border. Of course, nothing existed outside the forest, so there was nothing to see. Escaping the forest seemed impossible. He thought about it for a while. He got up. There seemed to be nothing left to do. He was altogether tired of being hungry. He looked at the forest around him. It had appeared much more pleasant when he had believed there might be food in it.
He began walking. He was walking very fast. He had made up his mind. It wasn't a good mind for making plans but he had come up with a rather desperate one. He walked until he came to the edge of the forest. He looked, or tried to look, beyond the trees. Considering the fact that nothing is not easy to see nor is it easy to make sense of, what the man did next was fairly remarkable. He took a running start and leapt into it.
Julie Carpenter is the creator of the Sacred Chickens website and Author of Things Get Weird in Whistlestop. She is dedicated to telling stories and making sure that indie writers and publishers have a way to be heard. She uses narrative, her own and others’, to help interpret the world. She has a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Memphis, with an emphasis in Composition Theory. She wants to bend reality one story at a time. Julie’s work has appeared in Fiction on the Web and will be included The New Guard. She is currently working on a novel and starting a podcast where people can tell her about their weird ideas.