An international online magazine that publishes Neo-Surrealist poetry in English.
In the Promised Land
"What has been promised?" I ask. "Nothing," the voice in the burning bush answers. "But it is all yours." When I grip a handful of dirt, the earth grasps my arms so tightly I drop the dirt. "This is mine," the earth says. When I bend down to drink from the stream, the water retreats from my lips. I cup my hands to lift it, but the water vanishes, leaving only rocks and dried bed. I pick up a rock to throw it to see if it'll find the water, but the rock bounces until the dirt catches it. I pluck the fruit of a tree and bite into it. The fruit tastes so bitter I spit it out. Whooping, hyenas tear into the body of a dead animal, crushing its bones in their jaws. Sheep bleat in the hills. A shadow flashes its dark blade. The flame burns in a thousand burning bushes. "It's all yours," they say to anyone foolish enough to listen.
Catching the Monster
On Main Street, I spot the monster in the crowd. He's clean shaven, but there are red nicks on his cheeks and chin. He's got long claws that can rip a chest apart in seconds. No one in the crowd appears to notice that the monster is among them. I follow closely weaving in and out until I'm almost stepping on his heels. Suddenly he turns to face me. "You're a monster," I say. He licks the stain of blood from his lips. "Is that so bad?" he asks. "There are many missing," I answer, "and bones scattered throughout the city." Without even a glance, people walk by or around us. Neon signs blink. Cars jam the noisy streets growing jumpy, music blasting from open windows. "There are always many missing, always trails of clues leading everywhere and nowhere," he says. I grip his forearm, causing him to grimace. "I'm taking you in." The monster breathes in my face. His breath is sweet as if he has eaten a sweet meat. He stares deep into my eyes, searching for my secrets. "If you believe in monsters, perhaps you are a monster," he says. "Isn't that what all monsters say?" I ask. "Point well taken," he answers, "but you do have a powerful jaw, yellow eyes and spotted skin—like the rest of us monsters." I cuff his wrist to mine, head to the station to turn us both in—for the reward.
In the mirror, there is a troop of soldiers. "Let us out," they command me.
Except for small differences—one parts his hair in the middle, one has a thick upper lip and another has thinner, longer fingers—they all look exactly like me. "Is there someone in charge," I ask.
The only soldier with a moustache steps forward. "I'm in charge," he answers. "I'm a lieutenant." He points to his stripes, but they mean nothing to me.
"Don't you have some kind of ID or badge?" I ask.
He holds up his card. I read it backwards. It just says, "Lieutenant." He's a lieutenant without a name. "We're here to protect your borders," he states.
"I don't have borders," I answer. The soldiers snicker.
"You do now," the lieutenant says. "Best to open the mirror and let us do our job."
When I stop back, they come forward. That's not supposed to happen. I move forward closer to the mirror, but they don't budge. I breathe on the glass until their faces are fuzzy. The cloud fades from the mirror.
"Very funny," he says. "But you're in grave danger."
"Who is out to get me?" I ask.
"Who isn't?" he answers.
I think about that for a while. He has a point, but an army of my duplicates doesn't seem like much protection, and no doubt of some of them will turn on me. "I'll take my chances," I say.
"You leave us no choice," he says, "you're a security risk." They take aim with their rifles and fire, and all of us hit the floor.
Jeff Friedman is from New Hampshire. His seventh book, Floating Tales—a collection of prose poems, fables, and mini tales— is forthcoming from Plume Editions/MadHat Press in autumn 2017. He has published six previous poetry collections, Pretenders (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2014); Working in Flour (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2011); Black Threads (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008); Taking Down the Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2003); Scattering the Ashes (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1998); and The Record-Breaking Heat Wave (BkMk Press at University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1986). His poems, mini tales and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, New England Review, The Antioch Review, Sentence, Indiana Review, Poetry International, Plume, Hotel Amerika, Flash Fiction Funny, New World Writing, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Missouri Review, etc.