Twitching Gills

All along the ocean

Long thick strings

holding fake plastic

items to hook the

corners of the mouth

Faithfully swimming

in schools around

the invisible lines

baiting the jaws of a

tormented shark

creeping underneath

the rustic boat

slowly ramming the boat

viciously to startle

the fishermen

In fright the boat rushes

back to the Florida land

Not realizing all the creatures

under the divine waters

work in unison

Somewhere east along Highway 37
A neon sign flashes intermittently vacancy
The Scarecrow Hotel remains alone
Stained threadbare carpets muffle TVs
And tearful phone conversations
Sixteen parking spaces yet only four filled
Warm shower and a sagging bed for the night

The ancient bricks lure the demented and sick
Vultures eying through the windows
Black and blue clouds crying endlessly
Wooden floors feeling troubled feet
Surrounded by ravens and blackbirds
Five miles east of the bloodhound river

She threw her suitcase on the queen
Predictably it flew wide open
The latches never held right, just like her heart
Two changes of clothing to cover her bruises
He’ll never touch her again but
Wrinkled clothing and a wad of cash
Don’t heal scarred faces

The letter “E” is barely visible in the sign
Voices humming a overture in the cellar
Last names engraved on walls by spirits
Doorknobs hanging by three threaded bolts
Driveway gravel is black as night
Welcome mat covered in red ants

He stares into the chipped mirror
Five o’clock shadow daily dulls razor blades
Just like the rings that dull his once bright eyes
The phone bill shows her increasing texts
Every time he travels to pay for her wants
More hours, more money, more fancy things
Less of him with less of her, he looks away

Dark stories unfolding in the rooms
Sheets covered in lies and betrayal
Cigarette smoke stirring up shadows
Tiny cracks in every bathroom’s mirror
Brown mustard dripping from faucets
Stained tears found in the corners of closets

She hears voices not her own
Listens every day upon a rented bed
One weekend she opened her eyes
Bloody hands and a very dull knife beside her
Finally a quiet clean house
Ever since then she lives with a smile
Mama taught her little girl don’t take no shit

Storytellers, dreamers, and howlers visit
Intending to sleep but fall in the depths
Replaying memories of the past
Cynics and liars raise a toast at the bar
Tipping the bartender bullets instead of dollars
Quarrels served at the table tops

He loosens a tie used as a tourniquet
Money well spent on the tricks of a whore
Last Friday he played two gigs stacked
Brain damage found in riding a white horse
Picks up his guitar and hums a few chords
Remembers the eyes of a lover
It’s another night, another hotel, another road

A neon sign flashes vacancy nonstop
Full of headaches, screams, and lost souls
Built on a cemetery of the Crowe family
Generations of terror between 6am and midnight
Sleep is just a word inside these haunted walls
Stories never die…

Braeden – non italic

Tara – Italics

This was a fun collaboration! I enjoyed it. Check out her blog if you haven’t.

Unpaved pitch black
Torturous and twisting
Glaring at a rustic sign
Unrecognizable and foreign
A lump in my throat

Cracked rear view mirror
Pieces of a faded sunset
Reflect a wrong direction
No map to point us South
Toward a new life, new route

Passing up Evergreen Cafe
Sipping on luke warm French Vanilla
Clenching to my hand
Whispering fear next to me
Grasping onto hope like a flask

I slip a quarter in the jukebox
My lips moving to a song
Forgotten in the tattered backseat
A memory that makes me yearn
For heat, flesh and forgiveness

Locked in the friend zone
Secrets guarded with a flag
Minimal and discrete conversation
Continually crossing borders
Stations only turned twice

Silence embraces then suffocates
Greener pastures a mirage
Our defenses are stone walls
Covered with heavy sighs
My hand crosses the fine line

Stuck at a broken light
Struck by the moving sensation
Trying to hide the risen tension
As she stares at my flush face
Urges from her leap forward

Unsure if he will yield
to the congestion of emotion
My smile a signal or a hazard
Time for me to shift gears
And fuel his lost passion

In the midst of driving
Unthinkable and unforgettable
Lips surrounded
Lighting a fire
Masterful tongue

The windows fogged
With curvaceous temptation
Our journey begins anew
A landscape drawn and devoured
In flashes of passing lights

Barriers removed
No caution tape around
Wanted and needed
Slipping into her palm
Astonished and amazed

Braeden – Non Italics

Amberangst – Italics

Check out Whiskey Tales and Spells if you haven’t! This was really fun to collaborate with her!

Meticulous he was

carefully methodical

speaking in monotone

Pulling the rope tighter

around her wrists and

tiny ankles in the

delusional basement

where rodents crawled

As he grinned at her

lifeless eyes

Sounds of pounding

on the front door

“We know who you are”

“We know who you have”

Entryway breaks

As police scatter

Mason’s dungeon

discovering the barely

breathing Melina

No one ever looks at

Buzzard Shadows Row

the same way

All of us thought we

knew Mason Bronson

Deep seated in the gunk

Footprints in the murky ashes

Sinking into an underworld

Falling and mellowing

Landing in a glass castle

dipped in sautéed wishes

and a marshmallow incubus

Surrounded by endless prisms

Quills held by unicorns

Chapters of bliss overflowing

Watercolors of love hanging

from sycamore trees

A countryside of antiques

Restoring faith in humanity

Miles of a golden beach

Under a painted yellow sun

Hatred and greed disappeared

Positivity is embraced

Harmony is embodied

Engaging thoughts bloom

The hatful of soot deceived millions

Gliding into a smog

Pouring firewater into a shot glass

Exchanging gossip over

mixed drinks wrapped around

a mesmerizing saxophone

Overheating remarks on Socrates

Reciting lines from the book of Proverbs

Observing the couple in the

deep chocolate booth sipping

on luscious martinis and chain smoke

to the sound of the rhapsody

Entwined notes and soulful galore

Hypnotized to his shuffling feet

As he sways back and forth

Nicknaming him Jazz Brown

A entertainer in the center of the heart

Playing for thousands over decades

Married to his sweet saxophone

Lovesick and in a thousand
bits of agony spread out over the dust
Shredded and defeated
No golden paths or marble dance floor
The wrecking disco ball evaporated
Romeo was convicted of manslaughter
and wearing bell bottom jeans
Aimlessly driving through quicksand
Drowning in self pity and tossing
the words of Shakespeare into the trash
Juliet stood frozen on the center stage
manipulating the script in her mind
No longer believing in the crystal ball
love becoming a nightmare not a fairytale
The poets and songwriters clench to
melodies of sarcasm and emptiness

Sweet brown sugar
Habenero pepper on her lips
Invigorating serene eyes
Dashing wild smile
Intellectual stimulating
Culturally educated
Admiring her heritage
Embracing her history
to build a brilliant future
Desiring your seductive mind
Appreciating the center
Itching to just be beside you
Absorbing your presence
Thoughts of you are magical

The stench will never disappear. I sit here in agony replaying the years in my head. I stare into the pitch black and contemplating the decisions that I have made in my colorful life. I was a jester. I have discarded all the useful cards in the deck only leaving myself with only a few to hold in my tired hands. I steer away from the root. I run away from the tears that refuse to see the sun. I was the fool in believing in the word forever. You took me for granted. I took you for granted. You didn’t have the ability to own up in your own mistakes. You chose to be stagnant. I thought I was the infant in this relationship. I took my vows seriously. My heart is full of mush, layers of sensitivity, and the cream you find in the center of a donut. I wanted more. I craved depth. I took responsibility of my actions. I stumbled away shapeless seeking the truth. I am a lost soul. All I can see is a twinkling light. I will find my way out. If there is one thing I do well it’s being persistent. Nobody will tell me I can’t do something.

Scolded by police sirens
Fire hydrants craving a drink
Chards of glass from the window
laying on the pavement with anger
Barbers and bartenders exchanging
witty nicotine sarcastic conversations
Mimes and witnesses pleading
the 5th amendment to the scene
Instigators snarl at the defendants
Allegations and half truths spoken like
lawyers in a lions den
Blood stains dry on Dripping Ink Avenue
Desperately screaming to the stop light
The curbside is a destination
for gamblers, burglars, and vendors
staring up at the mustard sun
Faces of debutants and vigilantes
walk past the New York landscape

Blaring hardcore

Metal music rumbling

Guzzling down a fifth

of Jim Beam at

the snakeskin wheel

with her licking her

saturated lips in the

passenger seat

Scorching engine

Curbside flames

Gateway to the

magnificent underworld

Drenched in the

madness and her

lustrous eyes

Salivating on the

speed lane to hell

as lightning crashes

Aching for the bombshell’s

fingers on my

trembling knee

to release the

infernos tension

She’s worth the

impact and ashes

I was born to feel

I was born to absorb my emotions a bit different

I want to see the world through others eyes

I was born to be a poet

I was born to be a writer

I want to be in touch with my tears

I want to know where they came from

I want to know where your scars came from

I want to understand you

I was born to be something I didn’t know existed

I was born to love you

I was born to share something that is suppose to bring us together

I was born to hold you

I was born so we could be together

I was born to love you until the end of time

I don’t measure myself by the dollar earned

I don’t measure myself by possessions

I don’t measure myself by the scars

I don’t measure myself by what I write

I don’t measure myself by the quantity of friends

I don’t measure myself by my beliefs

I don’t measure myself by who I know

I don’t measure myself by my fears

I don’t measure myself by my philosophies

I don’t measure myself by my tears

I just don’t measure myself

I am who I am

As I grabbed the notebook I cried hard. Words poured out:

Dear God,

I am suppose to believe in you. You took my Dad and I’m very mad at you. I don’t understand and why won’t Nathan cry? What is wrong with him? How could you do this to my mother? Is it possible for you to provide me answers soon?

As I was writing this my mom yelled up.

“Allie is at the door.”

I threw down the pen and wiped my tears. I went downstairs to let Allie in. She said my mom called her mom to tell her the news. I could tell she didn’t know what to say.

“Are you going to school tomorrow?”

“No I’m not going but will go sometime this week. My mom said there was lots to do. I don’t know what she wants me to do.”

“Did she tell you next weekend you and Nathan are staying with us?”

“No she didn’t.”

“It will be fun.”

“Allie Do you believe in God?”

“Yeah I do.”

“Why would God take my Dad?”

Allie just stared at me for a moment.

“I don’t know. I can’t really answer that. Is your notebook full yet? You said you would write something every day.”

“It’s almost full. I wrote something today.”

“What did you write today?”

“Today I wrote a letter to God. I’m hoping he will get it soon and write back.”

“I don’t think that’s how that works.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well at church we are told to believe in him. I don’t think he gets mail in heaven. He doesn’t wait for mail. My mom always says things happen for a reason.”

“So are you saying God took my Dad for a reason?”

“I don’t think it’s that easy to explain Ben. He didn’t take him to cut grass in heaven.”

I didn’t understand what Allie was trying to say.

A few months had passed and everything appeared to be normal until a early Sunday morning. I woke up to the sound of my mother crying. I laid there in bed and it sounded like she was on the phone. It was barely seven in the morning and Nathan was passed out cold. I never heard her cry like that. It made me nervous. It was then that I saw the knob turn on my door and saw my mother wiping her tears away. I closed my eyes immediately and she sat on the bed. She placed her hand on my face and softly said my name. I opened them up and my mom was frozen.

“Ben I have some bad news.”

She stopped right there. She struggled to continue crying. It struck a nerve in my ten year old body. I could see she was in so much pain emotionally. I could see it at the age of ten. I begin to cry and felt my world was about to change in a drastic way.

“Ben your father was in a car accident and he didn’t make it.

I sobbed just as much as my mother. Nathan was still sound asleep. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How am I suppose to go on without my Dad? I was so mad. I was so angry inside. I sat up and hugged my mom for life. It was hard to believe that I would never see my father. My mom left the room to make us breakfast and I had to tell my brother. I woke him up and told him. He didn’t cry, he just looked at me.

“So Dad won’t ever come home?”


“He was going to fix my bike. Ben who is going to fix it?”

I didn’t have an answer for him and was confused that he didn’t show any emotion. Our Dad isn’t here and all he could do is think about his bike. I didn’t get it. How can he not show any emotion?

It was a gloomy Sunday. My mom called everyone she knew to tell them. She was in tears all day on the phone. I walked around my house imagining my Dad not being here in the house anymore. No more playing football. No more car rides. No more wrestling. Something came over me as I walked around my house. I ran to my room and grabbed that notebook.

We all ran down to the basement to play. Allie and I sat on the couch. Nathan and Samantha begin to go through the chest to find something to play.

“Bring the notebook?”

I pulled it from my jacket as she laughed.

“Why did you put it there Ben?”

“My mom found it and I don’t know. I just did.”

“You must be shy about it.”

I didn’t say a word and opened it up.

“Here you go Allie, what do you think?”

She browsed and read this first.

The sad clown

went to bed.

No sounds

in his head.

Closed his eyes

He said goodbye.

All he saw was red.

“So what does this mean Ben?”

“I don’t know it just came to me.”

“You just started writing this stuff?”

“Yeah I kept on looking at Nathan’s books. Especially Dr. Seuss. I thought I would try to do what he can do.”

“Oh ok I see.”

“Why is this guy a doctor anyway? All he does is rhyme words. He doesn’t look at anyone’s tonsils or eyeballs. None of what he writes makes any sense.”

“Very true Ben.”

“So I thought maybe you can help me add words to it. This can be what we do for fun once in a while.”

“Yeah it’s different. But you want me to think and we aren’t in school.”

“Do you want to help or not?”

“Yeah I will help you.”

We stared at what I wrote for a few minutes.

Then she added more to it and changed a bit to it.

The sad clown

went to bed.

Too many thoughts

in his head.

Closed his eyes

He said goodbye.

Time to forget

all the things people said.

“Allie, that’s pretty good! That makes more sense.”

“Yeah it does but this seems kinda boring to me.”

It kinda made me sad that she said that. I’m not sure why that bothered me but it did.

I looked at my brother and Samantha. They were watching tv and making faces at one another. Apparently I was on my own if I wanted to write whatever I was writing. I thought Allie would like it.

“Let’s just watch with them.”

“Allie what do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a teacher.”

“Why is that?”

“They teach kids.”

“Remember my mom does that and she always says they don’t pay her enough for all the crap she does.”

“Ben you said a bad word!”

“Crap isn’t a bad word. I’ve heard my Dad say bad words and I can’t repeat them until I’m 21 according to my Mom.”

“Yeah I’ve heard my Mom say bad words too. But I got yelled at for using the word crap.”

“Ben, where is your brother?”

“He just went outside to play.”

“Didn’t I tell you last night you two needed to clean your room?”

“We did clean it.”

I was in the bathroom and my mom was in her room.

“So I can walk in there and check it?”

I was filling up the sink to see if the boat I had made would float.


“Ben Michael Masters your room is not clean!

One section of it is and the rest isn’t.”

“You meant the whole room?”

“Go get Nathan and clean the entire room, NOW!”

I tossed down my boat and ran down the stairs. I slammed the door out of aggravation and yelled his name. Nathan came running from next door. It looked like he was talking to Allie.

“We have to finish cleaning our room. I think Mom is on her period.”

I have no clue what a period is but my dad always said when she is cranky she is on her period. I’m only ten years old, but everything my dad says is true. We went upstairs to go clean our room and my mom stood in the middle of the room with her hands on her hips.

“Boys you know better, when I tell you to clean your room, I mean the whole room.”

“Yes Mom.”

“Ben what is that notebook on your bed, it’s open and it looks like you have written a lot?”

I snatched it and closed it right away.

“Nothing Mom.”

This was the age I begin to write. I’m not even sure if it made any sense but the sound of words rhyming somehow appealed to my little brain. I can’t even explain it. I threw it in my dresser drawer and had a feeling my mom would one day walk in here. She would search for it. Nathan and I cleaned our room.

I went to go look for my boat in the bathroom and it was gone. My mom did something with it. I was kinda mad but if I ask her she would tell me our toys can’t be laying around in the bathroom. She must be on her period. I need to find out what that means. The house needs to be clean when she is on her period.

“Ben, Allie is on the phone, come get it.”

“Hi Allie.”

“You gonna come over today like you said?”

“Nathan and I will be over soon. We gotta eat lunch first.”

“Ok. Bring your notebook over.”


Allie is the same age. She moved here last year. There aren’t too many kids that live on my street. She has a sister the same age as Nathan, Samantha.

I put a jacket on and grabbed the notebook. I put it underneath the jacket so my Mom couldn’t see.

To be continued…

Saw you on the cover of Rolling Stone
Saw you in a painting in a museum
Heard you say give me peace a chance
Saw you in glitter in a frame
Saw your name on a concrete wall
Heard you sing “Imagine”
Saw thousands stand around your grave
Saw tears of millions after your passing
Heard the legacy of a brilliant man
You made a difference to me
I find myself saying give peace a chance