Now I have the time

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Now I have the time
to pay attention to the names
of musicians
both living and dead
      Michael Nyman
      Philip Glass
      Alexander Borodin
      Katie Von Schleicher

and I take pride because
I feel what they create
and now I know their names

Now I have the time
to pay attention to my
backyard
the gophers have gone
I killed all the weeds
the wild parrots, escaped
from the pet store
50 years ago, gather
on the power line above
my easement
the Blue Jay’s cocking heads
and hopping
around the gopher holes
finding grubs
And I take pride because
they are part of my lot
and now I know their names

And now I have the time
to pay attention to the names
the names not belonging to me
or to the other one
I have the time to pay attention
because I have only time

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I know a great writer

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I know a great writer
but you don’t
her greatness is planted
in not knowing, not
thinking she is great
and I know she is
a great writer
but she doesn’t and
she writes anyway
and I write but
I try not to think of
my standing
my standing over
or standing under the
writing of other writers
and I stand up
and I think of the words
and the words I don’t know
but that great writer writes
knowing nothing of her greatness
and I write but
I stand and go outside
taking off my shirt to let the sun
soak in
and I think of her greatness
and not my own
and she doesn’t
think of me

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

lazy day with nothing to say

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

lazy day with
nothing to say

the sun soaks
sludge bilks’ thoughts
mudslides smooth
peaks and valleys
to a single plateau

my mind, the sun, un-seeable
a walnut dazed
windows glazed in
snow buried, re:
whites, grays, haze
Trieved to a
Saint slobbering Bernard

Cocoa steams
streams magma flings
in loosening dreams
through the windows
of the sun, sloths
in heat buildup speed
and spew their sperm
soaked thoughts:

slow swimming sludge
obsidian’s cakes tectonics
quake meridians plates

lazy day with
nothing to say

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Inside my chest there lives a cat

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Inside my chest I found a cat
I called it names to which it spat
‘til desperation made me scream
I know not, love, for what you dream
and then it nuzzled, flicked its tail
a cry of love found holy grail
still at my touch, bared tooth and nail
so I stay hid from love’s impale

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And Paul

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And Paul
I love you
brother

we want to see beauty
and we’re the same
with different words
so I choose carefully

we met in a circle
sharing our pain
and I could see it
and you could see it
thorns

through cigarettes
and ping pong
cups of pills
we saw the things
that broke us
crystalline

love
family
friends
structure
authority
time not ours
bills
regrets
love
being alone

nothing so abstract
nothing faceless

we graduated
from beeping hallways
and single file lines
to check-ins and check-outs
and broken curfew fines

And we finished our time
maybe got perspective
I went back to work
you went back
to the gatehouse

Then you had a kid
and I got married
we spoke on the phone
about all under which
we were buried

You called
now and then
from the road
I called
once and again
from my home

The kid started school
I got divorced
life felt so cruel
you fell out
and stayed at my house

And we laughed at the news
when we started to drink
and we cried in our shoes
when our egos would shrink

And I had to remind you
kitchen knives were for food

and blood
is too close to the surface
in all of us

And I remembered
how I used to be
and we both agreed
that you should leave

And for years
before nights were done
we talked about
beauty
and you said
we’re the same
and I agreed
but I want to see
the beauty

and Paul
there’s no beauty
in the bottle
we’ve both checked

and Paul
beauty is pain
because we feel it

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Until I get to later

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I’ll die of exhaustion
tired of being alone
maybe head to Austin
forget to bring my phone

Throw on grandpa’s sweater
we had the same frame
drive until I wanna stop
look for something tame

No clinking brick to weigh me down
to wonder if to smile or frown
just stop for gas in dying towns
give knowing nods to wayward clowns

Stop by the road and find a tree
jot down the words, say poetry
throw my pens and pages in the back
drive off and think of what they lack

Distract away
her ringing words
“I’ll call you later”
later
later
later
later
later
later

And I’ll keep driving
until I get to later

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Light’s Fingers

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Light’s fingers touch in darkness stains
Colors froth through milky grains
Yellows yawp barbaric fire
Oranges howl of hell’s empire
though windows through the blackness break
no fingers lunge for lonely’s ache
My Adam’s hands, these gnarled tines
quaking reach to grasp what shines
that curdling plea of palm and nail
yet, no light hushes lonely’s wail

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Please

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Please
Don’t take the pills
Changing chemistries
Raising new ills

Those dark shadows
Swirling

Let them feed
Through words
To paper eaters
Devouring

Let them loose
Through color
To open windowed souls
Cowering

Let them twirl
Not suppress
Give them life
Beyond the chest

Let them powder
Through noise
To wax drums
Quivering

Let them dance
Through monologues
To cymbal-ed monkeys
Chattering

Please
Don’t take the remedies
Blessing new enemies
Depressing heart break

Those dark shadows
Swirling

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And I want to be the king of my castle

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And I want to be the king of my castle
And I feel like a pauper in my home
And I need to be master of my domain
And I believe no man should be alone

And I want to flit about on empty floors
And I feel the scream of doubt that clogs my pores
And I need cold water to wake me up
And I believe no answers are found in a cup

And I want my friends to know I am here
And I feel my family hold on to a tear
And I need a fresh face without a mask
And I believe no answers to questions they ask

And I want to find words that aren’t in a book
And I feel too much pain will allow me to look
and I need a new name to reflect all these changes
And I believe no pen is worthy of these exchanges

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

It was the times

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was the times
I teased too hard
And
It was the time
After sex
I asked a stupid question
And
It was the time
Before intimacy
I asked a stupid question
And
it was the time
I drove to you
Drunk
And
It was the time
I came over
from the night before
Still stinking of booze
And
It was the times
I went out
“to catch a slice of life”
I said
And
It was the time
At the urgent care parking lot
I shared a cig
With another waiting for his girl
And
It was the times
I couldn’t express
But I wanted to be alone
And
I walked past you
To take out the trash
As if another wall
And
And there is more
And
I write them out
So plainly
Too quickly
And
I feel them
Like paper
cuts

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Youthful Beauty

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Youthful Beaty
nods and smiles
at graying experience
the coolness of
sweaters
Jackets
shirts
Sagging in all the right places
Betrays
The pursuit of success
Cleavage shines and rings
skirts high tail
chandelier leggings
locked eyes
loose legs

Meanwhile

Armies of
Scabbed hands
bruised arms
oxygen tanks
vet hats
social security cheques
keep the boat
Floating

The pianist’s fingers bleed
for the raised voice
recognition
of barfly’s and
passersby

Five claps for the piano man
and I write on torn
sheets of a legal pad
trying to understand what I’m doing

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I tried to bet the ponies

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I tried to bet the ponies
Like Bukowski
But my math is atrocious

I tried drinking
Like Hemingway
But the loneliness was unbearable

I tried writing
Like Joyce, Miller and Burroughs
But my mind is too chaotic

I tried meditating
Like Cheever
But there’s too much fight in my chest

I tried uppers and downers
Like Thompson
But clarity was elusive

I tried
I’ll try

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Forced words

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Forced words
The thing won’t come
The thing won’t happen
Worse
I don’t know what thing is

Forced words
At a casino
Between sweepers
Smokers
Losers
chirps
Winners
Chimes
Losers

Forced words
Because
That fight
in my chest
crawls down
to my hands

it’s shit
the feeling
it’s shit
the forced words

A train not even crashing
No explosion
Just quietly retiring
Off the tracks

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

If you’re lucky enough

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

If you’re lucky enough
You’ll fly to the moon
Through blue flame eyes
Glowing cross the table
And you’ll hear
Louis Armstrong’s growling timbre
I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven.

And if you pay attention
Sinatra will croon
between your ears
I thought of quitting, baby
but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
and you’ll float over the moon
aiming for those sapphire eyes
twinkling across the table

And if you’re lucky enough
time will stop
and you’ll realize there is only
what is in front of you
and like melting butter
Irma Thomas will drip
in your ears
Anyone who knows what love is
will understand

And if you let yourself go
you’ll bloom in a shimmering galaxy
of golden hair
and Minnie Riperton’s soft melody
will patter in your ear
Kiss my petals
and weave me through a dream

And if you’re lucky enough
you’ll stand still
tethered by a kiss
in a Stater Brother’s parking lot
while the world spins
your body will buzz and hum
and you’ll hold your own song

And if you hold on to it
you’ll write about it
filling pages
with a universe of words
you’ll run out of ink
you’ll run out of words
but those azure eyes
will forever be empyreal

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

And it’s in my chest

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And it’s in my chest
And I think about Blanca
And I think about me
And I think about the dogs
And I never start from the beginning
And the monologue never stops
And I’m trying to fall asleep
And I fall into another line
And I stay awake
And I want to be a better man
And I don’t know what that means
And I keep pushing keys
And my hands grab for tools
And my palms tingle
And every line starts to continue
And I hate it
And I love to hate it
And it’s cliché
And I recognize it is cliché
And I keep pressing down
And I think of a pianist
And I want to make music
And I hate the things my fingers leave
And I make noise
And I clang
And I bang
And I push
And every line starts the same
And I try to scrape the fever
On keys
On paper
On pens
On receipts
On napkins
On envelopes
And it leaves a residue
And I read it
And you read it
And it stains

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

The sky is mottled with pregnant clouds

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The sky is mottled with pregnant clouds
Contractions of wind huff harder and harder
Trees protest throwing down leaves
And still I stay outside

A cricket plays a solo
A neighbor laughs
My hair blows over my eyes
And still I stay outside

The cup of tea has lost its steam
My skin tightens into untouched dunes
My fingers tighten while they tap
And still I stay outside

Bukowski’s liquor breath escapes his jowls
Love is a Dog from Hell flutters and howls
My little dog scurries from door to lap
And still I stay outside

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Tomorrow I leave on a road trip

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Tomorrow I leave on a road trip
With my dad

We’ve been to
North Carolina
New York
Just the two of us

In NC
We saw all the green
From a Mustang convertible
Watched Eddie Murphy on screen
Took a dip in a mountain stream
Dad worked in the next room
I saw porn for the first time
I was still a single digit

In NY
We saw mountains of glass and steel
From taxi cabs and walks
Viewed works of art
Ate well
Dad went to a conference
I crossed the Brooklyn bridge
and smoked
I was in my early 20’s

I’m 35
We know each other’s vices
We’re driving to the deserts of the Midwest
We’ll see strip malls
gas stations
fast food
On our way to beauty

I’ll grab my watch
And
Hold its hands

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

I took in a breath of fresh air

A short poem.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I took in a breath of fresh air
On Monday
And it stayed
In my lungs
Until Friday
Around 4PM

“Hey” she said
Letting herself in

That short word
Never meant so much

“Hey”
The joy didn’t even well up
It all came out in the hug
and
The exhale was sweet

And now I’m closing
my eyes
and breathing in the pillow
she
leaned on

© 2020 writesmarcus.com All Rights Reserved.

Float, Volcano, Marathon

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Astronauts spin holding an orphan rope
All known life bouncing from their visors
Green and blue and white and brown

My fingers burn and quake at glowing letters
An eruption of black spews over white
Invisible specks from that deep black pool

Finger through tar race chariots of fire
One view, two views, three views, four
One like, two likes, then no more

The window checking fever of a lost love
Howling wolves, laughing hyenas, danger
Bricks are laid one by one by one by one

Not fame, not money, not glory, nor expertise
Anxious desire to transcribe thought
To write. Not to be read, but understood

Liberty, Sweep, Inspiration

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

You’re squinting eyes betray your smile
The mask masks little to a familiar shape
Cigarette smoke dances towards beauty
And I can’t look away

You, the conjuring of muses
Baring a bounty of abuses
Betraying only grace
And I can’t look away

Cages open when you smile
Wings espy strength to fly
Bulges form upon my nape
And I can’t look away

The match you burn
Whispers darkness away
The corners lit
And I can’t look away

When sound escapes your peaceful face
No mask can mask that sweet escape
Swirling cosmos, stars and sky
And I can’t look away

Though day is dying in the West
You raise a sun inside my chest
It forms a smile upon my face
And I can’t look away

White, your name best describes
The happy touch and gentle vibes
A hummingbird darting into our lives
And I can’t look away

True, Beat, Receipt

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Glistening notes of piano
Gentle fingers push
Soft pads whisper thuds
Unnoticed but still true

Bow rips
Sheep guts scream
Bow rips
Audience roars

Mane whips
Sweat drips
Baton grips
Beat apocalypse

Ears receive
Hands return
Hearts deceive
Man’s concern

Arthritic perfection
Irony’s complexion
Gnarled perspective
Left defective

Money for blood
Money for beauty
Money for truth
Money for duty

Honey to drums
Aching for more
Watering eyes
The artist’s whore

Honor, Describe, On

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Masks betray allegiance
Character on display
Grocery
Gas
Work
Home
Play

I/me/it
Refuse to play
Masks, sure
Identity, no way

No privilege in opinions held
Only privileged array
It’s somewhere in the middle
Not black
Not white
Gray

Speculative hypothesis
Speeding ticker tape
Brought to you by Skype
Hairy knuckled apes

Schizophrenic bricks
Seizure flashings
Falling skies
Hypnotize

Politics
Tune in
Choose R
No G
Choose B
The race of race
On color screams

Most trusted
Alternative
Number one watched
Hear it first
Quench your thirst
The truth already botched

Deny, Aloof, Fame

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Crickets
No wind
Move your arm
Feel it swim.

Black swiss cheese
Above the trees
Blinking holes
Moving souls

Words betray
I’m okay
Donkey’s bray
I’m okay

Nature moves
Flashing screens
Breathing mouths
Counting beans

Piles of beans
Flash on screens
Breathing mouths
Become routines

Dying slow
Long goodbyes
Reflecting glow
Attracting flies

Nothing loved
Nothing gained
Straining eyes
Entertained

Wearing masks
Hiding flasks
No more smiles
Wandering aisles

Keep in mind
Distance gained
No more hugs
Distance maintained

Hold the phone
Coming home
Fingers itchy
News so kitschy

One more touch
Finger raised
Swiping screen
Red Blue praised

Square root =
44.94441010849
Year of fear
Drinking wine

Crickets
No wind
Move your arm
Feel it swim

Blue pastel
Above the trees
Sending man
To his knees

Condition, Skin, Waiter

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Slip, drip through cracks. Crocodile flesh the desert floor eats all alive sun baking the heat Venus Fly Trap. Death

Circumstances, existence temporary. Ripping veils kicking, screaming, bleeding, kissing, fucking, missing, sleeping…not waking up. Being

Fingers, toes all in a flurry. Skittering, tittering blurry. Frenzy, quaking and shaking. Sun’s point of view, we don’t move. Waiting

Pain, pangs, sharp, dull. Internal buzzing, humming, thumping, drumming. Moon lathers, shaving, slivering, chiseling, waning. Time

Pain, pangs, sharp, dull. Internal buzzing, humming, thumping, drumming. Moon is full. Love

Surprise, alive, squeeze, squeal. Internal buzzing, humming, thumping, drumming. Moon shaves and grows. Love

Dirt, water, air, fire.

falling stars
waterfalls
choking weeds
blooming buds
browning grass
lush jungle
forest fire
toxic sunsets
fresh air
bleeding noses
Eskimo kisses
Love

Bang, Extract, Braid

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel saw a crowd gathering in a field just a few yards from the dirt path he’d been following. They seemed to grow in numbers, coming from all directions. He stood on his tip toes but couldn’t see past the backs of people huddling. Slowly he made his way over, moving his head side to side as if a slit or crack would appear.

Reaching the crowd, he made his way through a few people to the front. There Lemuel saw two men facing each other. By each of their sides, a woman was crying. He watched as one of the women took out a knife and cut off her long braid, stuffing it into the pocket of the man on the right. The other woman hugged the man on the left.

Each of the men was holding some sort of object made of metal and wood. They pushed a rod into the holes in the metal and tapped it down a few times. A man from the crowd, holding something in his hand that was connected to a chain that ran to one of his pant pockets.

The man raised his hand and the women dispersed back into the crowd, being held by other people. The two men stood back to back, pressing their heels into the heels of the other. They stood this way, all three of them, for what felt like minutes but really only a few seconds had passed.

The man dropped his hand and made a strange sound from his mouth. The two men began taking long, slow steps in opposite directions, putting both feet together after each step. They did this for 20 steps and then stopped. The man with the chain waved his hands to the crowd on either side of the men. The crowd moved to the side so there was no one facing the men in either direction.

Then the man put the object in his pocket, the chain still dangling. He moved back into the crowd opposite Lemuel. The two men had their objects of metal and wood tucked into straps at their sides, their hands hovering over them. One of the men waved his fingers slowly.

There was silence. Lemuel was fixated. His feet felt rooted to the ground. Then he heard a noise from behind him say something, it sounded like “hey, get that kid out of here.” But Lemuel had no clue what they meant or that they were talking to him. He realized quickly, that everyone, including the man with the chain was staring at him. Someone grabbed his shoulder, but he didn’t budge, he wouldn’t move. He wanted to see what was happening.

Then someone grabbed him around the waist and picked him up. They carried him back through the crowd and halfway up to the path. The man who set him down made more noises and thrusted a pointing finger toward the direction of the path. Lemuel stood still, facing the crowd. The man spun him around and gave him a shove toward the path. Now he got the message.

He reached the path and kicked at the dirt, sending up a dust cloud. He started walking in the direction he had originally been heading.

BANG! Lemuel whipped his head around. A scream and a wail went up from the crowd. Then some noise from someone that sounded like “no, no, no, no, god, no.” He tried to find a crack in the crowd so he could see but the crowd had moved even closer to the men.

Lemuel stood on the path and closed his eyes, wrapping crossing his arms and holding each cheek with the opposite hand, the iterations of the Lemonmouth. Something didn’t feel right and so he looked inside for answers.

Die, Mug, Silence

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The waitress eyed his mug like a Black Friday shopper eyeing the father who just grabbed the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. His knuckles white from keeping a tight grip through the handle around the sphere of the terracotta cup. His eyes glancing at the waitress and back at the coffee, half full and still steaming in his hand. The waitresses grip on the coffee pot equally as tight, a white band appearing where her choke hold on the handle, pressed against her wedding band and drained the blood around that finger.

He watched as she delivered a plate of egg whites to an older man two tables away. Then she walked over to his table.

“How is everything?” her question a distraction to her real intention. A rope-a-dope as her coffee pot hand darted forward across the table toward his mug.

“Everything is great, thank you.” He said, taking a sip from his coffee and bringing closer to his being, away from the hovering mother ship of coffee.

“Great, I’ll be back to check on you.” She wavered eyeing the mug, her hand beginning to shake from the extension of the nearly full pot in her hand. The moment passed and she retreated, moving on to the next table, where their mugs were exposed, and she filled to the brim each one with steaming coffee.

His mind was quiet. Eating alone, he’d become accustomed to the silence in his immediate vicinity. The conversations and cacophony of forks, knives and cups clattering spilled over into his space, but that was to be expected.

The waitress stopped at the coffee maker and began reloading her pot. She glanced back at his table; the mug still locked in his hand. She nearly spilled the coffee but there was more than enough in the chamber to cock back and fire more coffee into his cup, no matter how full it may have been.

She walked straight back to his table. “Refill?” The pot hovering inches from his mug-holding hand.

“No thank you,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” She insisted, pushing the pot closer to him until they nearly made a toast.

“Yes, I’m quite satisfied with the amount I have, one cup is enough.”

“Well, refills are free, sir, don’t be shy.” She was on the attack. He still stayed on the polite defense.

“That’s a great policy but I think I’ll have had my fill with just this one cup, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back to make sure.” She fired back. This shot wiped out his front line and civility became the casualty.

“Ma’am, no need to come back. I only want one cup of coffee.” The smile on his face turned a few degrees to a thin line.

“Okay, we’ll I’ll be back in a few minutes to make sure. People change their minds.” She threatened to leave but her smile faded, and she stayed, her arm shaking from holding the full pot out in front of her.

“Do not come back. I have finished my meal and once I finish this very cup of coffee, this single cup of coffee, I will pay my bill and leave. Should you continue insisting, I will be forced to leave only a 10% gratuity.”

“Sir, are you not happy with our service?” Her brow furrowed and the line became a frown. His brow furrowed and the thin line became a frown.

“Your service is excellent, perhaps a bit too much. It could be said that there is too much service. And if there should be too much of something, it is still inadequate.”

“I will refill that mug.” She pushed the pot against his mug, threatening to tilt its spout into his mug.

“You will not.” He pulled the mug away.

“I will provide this service as per our policy.”

“Policy be damned, I would rather die than accept your refill.”

Role, Disturbance, Dine

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s not the shoes. It’s the feet. It’s not the feet, it’s the bones, muscles and tissue. It’s not really even those things, it’s the brain. The thing that tells the feet what to do, where to pivot, stop, book it, boot it, jump, slide and plant.

Even when they don’t feel it that day. On any given day the feet come to play, the mind could be a million miles away. Dreaming of that perfect companion with which to dine. Those sorts of things are controlled, some would say, by the heart. So perhaps it’s not the brain, but the heart that when hurt, doesn’t allow the brain to function properly.

Lace up all you wish but the distractions are many and the appetite for play simply isn’t there. Hear the cheers, the boos but if you don’t see that one face in the crowd, the heart just won’t play. Or maybe it will, perhaps it truly can be mind over matters of the heart. Perhaps you can will your feet to connect where they need.

I don’t know. Sports is very one dimensional, usually all or nothing. He gave it his all. She just didn’t want it enough. Is that really the best way to make parallels with our life? Maybe sports are just fun to watch.

Today was a good day for living but not for writing.  

Sleep, Store, Offense

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel rested his eyes, just for a moment. The last few days had forced him to be alert, but the moment he let down his guard, he was out. His eyes fluttered rapidly behind his eyelids as his mind processed all its eyes had taken in.

Lemuel watched skeletons running around on a beach with black pebbles. Their bones clacking on the rock as they swiveled their heads around, which, their heads were cameras. Cameras with long lenses that whirred when they zoomed and had cables attached that ran all the way to somewhere Lemuel couldn’t see. The camera head skeletons crowded around Lemuel, pointing their lenses at his lemon stuffed mouth.

The setting and characters shifted. The clacking bones and whirring lenses morphed into the strange noises coming from all the people in the marketplace. All the strange noises from the other creatures in cages also stirred into the blurry soup being made in Lemuel’s mind. He stood in front of a long table, octopi crawling all over each other and up the pillars holding up the tent. A man came out making guttural noises from his mouth and maybe even nose before taking out a giant clever and hacking at the squirming maw of tentacles and beaks on the table. Heads, beaks and tentacles still suctioning flew everywhere.

One landed on Lemuel’s face and he tore it off with a hiss and pop. Lemuel stared horrified at the massacre of the sacred creatures he was taught to hold in reverence. The providers of the ink that allowed the lemonmouth to speak, to stand out amongst themselves and the rest of the world. The ink that allowed them to tell their stories, both ancient and new.

Lemuel began to cry, his tears hot and angry. He began to shake violently. His arms and legs stretching and growing wider all at once. Tiny suction cups dotted his growing arms and he grabbed at anyone with his new tentacles, anyone in the marketplace, but their quick pace and constant noise prevented them from noticing anything was going on. Every person Lemuel grabbed continued making their noises and looking around as if they had forgotten something.

Then Lemuel woke up. Someone was shaking him. He looked up into the eyes of a woman, she smiled but there was no lemon in her mouth and also not a single tooth. She spread her arms wide in the greeting he understood. On her bare chest, between a shirt, he could see the lines of the lemonmouth, from a different ship most likely, and quite old judging by its faded color.

The lines on her chest told a story of motherhood, of disgrace, of shame. There was also a new line, one Lemuel hadn’t initially noticed. It was a skeleton hand, it’s pointer finger and pinky sticking straight up while the thumb and other two fingers were pressed into the palm, almost like a head with horns. Lemuel didn’t recognize that symbol, but in looking up at her face and keeping the new lines in his mind, he noticed a strength.

She motioned for him to follow and he did, this being the only other lemonmouth, or closest thing to one, he had found in a few days.

Confusion, Mosque, Slow

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nothing made sense at the edge of the blue. On land there didn’t seem to be any order, to anything. Nothing was categorized and everyone moved rapidly, never seeming to take a break. Those weren’t even the strangest things. There was nothing in their mouths and they all seemed to be constantly making noises through them.

Lemuel had heard crying or retching or coughing but never the cacophony of sounds he was hearing now. None of it made sense. His eyes darted everywhere for some daubing, some symbols on these strange people to learn something about them.

Opening his arms at everyone coming toward him didn’t seem to be effective, if anything, they walked faster and made an obvious turn to avoid him. There was so much stimulation, Lemuel couldn’t think. He looked for a place that might be quiet so he could gather his thoughts and process what he might do. It wasn’t even that long ago that he had suddenly regained consciousness on shore. He still hadn’t gotten over the shipwreck, seeing all the ropes, sails, wood, and various supplies scattered in the mouth of the bay. All those lemons, bobbing up and down, rolling back and forth with each wave stretching onto the edge of the blue.

Looking up, Lemuel spotted a tall building with round towers poking up above the other tall buildings. Moving toward it, he pushed through people carrying strange objects he’d never seen. Moving creatures in cages, baskets of bright red, round objects, shiny things twisted in dangerous shapes. He had to keep looking up at the towers because at his level, there was only seeing just past the next person.

Finally, he looked up and then down to see the entrance of the building he sought. A giant archway patterned with tiles on each side marked the mouth of what he hoped would be a quiet or at least a quieter place.

Walking slowly towards the entrance, Lemuel noticed shoes just outside the large wooden doors. He took off his sandals and peeked into the door that was slightly ajar. Two men emerged, not noticing him. They carried rolled up rugs and stopped to put on their shoes. Lemuel slipped past and stopped, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness.

As his eyes took in the little light available, they began bouncing off information for Lemuel to see. More giant arches marked a long, vacuous hallway but they were not plain. Every wall, pillar, arch and windowsill was covered with carvings. Images of birds, geometric shapes, slivered moons, suns and stars.

Lemuel looked at his own bare chest, seeing the tattoos that made up who he was. Perhaps they spoke his language. He moved forward through archways, looking up at gigantic hanging objects holding, what looked like, thousands of candles. Ahead of him, he saw more men. They faced down on rugs just fit for them and rocked back and forth from kneeling to touching their heads to the rug. They were also making strange noises from their mouths, but these were not the chaotic sounds from outside, these seemed to sooth him. Lemuel knelt down, mimicking what he saw and began to think. The storm, his grandfather losing his grip on the rigging and disappearing over the side of the ship, screaming, blackness, the beach. Lemuel had found a quiet place but his thoughts were booming.

Canvas, Excavate, Term

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Stretched out before him was a blank canvas. Lemuel dipped his fishbone quill, into the inkwell fashioned to look like an octopus fanning out its legs, its bulbous head removed and shaped into a bowl. He hovered the pen over the paper, thinking hard of what he should daub. Looking over at the rest of his shiplings who were already daubing the familiar shapes of fish, boats, mermaids and lemons. He looked back down at his canvas and found that ink had dropped in a small crown on the page.

The instructor came by and shook her head. “Lemuel, you must look around you and put down to the canvas what you see. Remember, we are what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Don’t think so hard, it needn’t come from within you.”

Half paying attention, Lemuel dipped the quill again, this time down to the fingertips holding onto the bone. More drips appeared all over the canvas. He whipped his hand away, sending a line of paint streaking down one side of the canvas. The sight of it excited him. The line curved upwards to a point, reminding him of the crest of a wave. He looked over at the instructor, smiling and nodding at the illustration of fish and boats.

Lemuel dipped his pen again, this time intentionally getting his fingers and half the pen dripping in ink. He whipped his hand in the opposite direction, sending lines and splatters down the right side of the canvas. Something inside him was waking up, something that had been buried deep below everything he was told but something that he felt was right and true to the patterns of ink appearing before him.

Again, he dipped the ink and again he whipped his hand over the canvas until before him was the rough shape of a choppy sea. The dots, he thought reminded him of the spray that splashed off the crest of two waves coming together or from the bow of a ship crashing through the water.

He hadn’t noticed that his fellow shiplings had ceased their daubing and began huddling around him, watching him furiously swish and splash paint onto the canvas. Lemuel felt as if he were the very creator, whipping up the ocean and providing it with movement, light and life. These lines did not resemble anything created by daubers before him, but he wasn’t thinking of that. Right now, he was only following something inside him that told him this was right and true.

“Lemuel!” shouted the instructor. “What are you doing?”

Lemuel was shaken out of his daze. He looked up to see all of his peers staring. Some snickered, some looked horrified and the instructor stomped over yanking the canvas from table.

“These are not the lines of a lemonmouth. This is blasphemy. Perhaps you do not know what you have done but in creating such chaos you have also created an imbalance in the sea. This does not bode well. I will show your grandfather.”

The instructor rolled up the canvas, smearing the wet paint and ruining what Lemuel had thought was something he had never seen before. His excitement turned to disappointment and quickly into fear. His hand was covered in ink and his pantaloons had black splatters. Then he looked at the table, it was covered in wild lines turbulent drops, resembling the waves he was creating on his canvas.

Lemuel couldn’t quite put into words what he had felt while painting but he knew that he needed to feel it again.

Outlook, Violation, Thumb

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Lemuel sat at the bow of the ship staring at the thin line that his elders had told him was land. Born on the boat, he’d never been to land, but he was told it was like the deck of a ship that never rocked and often stretched as far as the eye could see. Lemuel was also told that there was no need to ever go there. The ship and the sea had everything they needed. Except for the lemons and a few other supplies.

To go and live on shore among all the evil that existed there was one of the main themes Lemuel was taught time and again. For the lemons and other necessities, special crew members called thumbs were designated and even then, they traveled ashore in groups of three; one with a blind fold, another with a gag in his mouth and the third with earplugs. Each specialized in a sense. The eyes (gag) surveyed and looked for the appropriate vendors. The ears (blindfold) listened to the side conversations of vendors to make sure they were not being taken advantage of. The mouth (earplugs) spoke for the fleet belonging to the Lemonmouths.

Lemuel looked down at his first tattoo, a small black lemon on his right wrist. Made from the ink of octopi and squid pulled up, boiled down and inked by the “daubers”. According to his grandfather, the Lemonmouth needed very little to communicate and in a picture a thousand conversations could be had. By looking at the other’s eyes and down to their tattoos, Lemuel had learned to communicate.

The lemon wedged in Lemuel’s mouth was still fresh, the rind had not yet broken down or been accidentally punctured by a tooth. He wiped away the steady stream of saliva with his water cloth, a strip of sail each Lemonmouth carried around for that purpose. His was brown and crusted by salt but that was normal.

In Lemuel’s world, the lemon was a sacred object. Geronimo Coolidge, their forefather, the lemon prevented scurvy, but it also kept out evil spirits, from entering the body or the world. A world, that for Lemuel, consisted of water and wood, yet he would stare at that thin line near the horizon and wonder what it was like, evil or not.

Fascinate, Drawing, Rise

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He walked ten blocks on the phone talking to her. Trying all the time to drag out the conversation because he knew how it would end. Then he walked ten blocks back, paying attention to each step, understanding that one foot in front of the other was the only way to get back up the hill, the only way to get back to his house.

She had captured his attention but, in his state, he wasn’t ready to reciprocate. Change as a concept was easy, he thought, but it only happens one step at a time. When they met, he hadn’t taken enough steps to be ready, to reach that change he pictured in his mind.

Along those ten blocks were houses with the various decorations of Halloween scattered on lawns and porches. The only spell that he ever knew happened not in a cauldron but in the eyes, hair, smile, laugh, and touch of a woman. What he might call love. The first and only evidence of witchcraft.

Now he would have to create in his mind the lines and shapes that would show him what his new life would be once his feet carried him up hill. How would he construct a home? On what foundation would it be built? How strong would it have to be to withstand the earthquakes, twisters, hurricanes and storms that would come? On what would that home be built?

And all of a sudden something inside cried out, “Baby don’t go. Baby don’t go. I tried so hard but I wasn’t ready.” He took a breath and shuttered. It was cold. He was alone. On what would he build his home to make sure it was standing if the spell never wore off?

Mask, Impact, Discovery

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Perhaps loneliness can be written away. Getting lost in words, ideas, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, books, tomes, libraries. To become friends with letters and a tool for writing. Making acquaintance with a blank page, filling it with the handshakes and small talk of stories, essays, and poems.

Forcing one’s being to come into contact with the page, to forget all else. Surrounding loneliness with all that comes with writing and wrapping it all tightly around like a hug. Consumed by repeating the feeling period after period. Obsessed with filling the page and losing the self. Building a safe covering, draping oneself with the muses of tragedy and comedy; Melpo and Thalia.

All the while time moves, slightly faster, than when your eyes are locked onto the clock, moving with each blinking light or ticking hand. Loneliness slowing time. Time amplified and compounded by loneliness. Sleep and death the enemies of loneliness but friends of time and its passing.

Perhaps loneliness can be written away. Erased or at least postponed by the transcription of thought into words. How many words to erase loneliness? How many candles to light up a dark cathedral? How long can they burn? How much time passes before loneliness like a wind, rushes back in, leaving only the smoke of memory?

Burrowing furiously to unearth some sort of truth, the face behind those smiling and laughing masks, to the spiky ball of pain, down to the fluffy ball of joy. Digging down the white, throwing up black letter after black letter until you’re at the bottom of a page, buried safely under a pile of words.

Fork, Differ, Accessible

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She swirled the noodles into a tight knot around the outer tines of the fork. Sauce dripped down her chin and onto her dress as she pushed the spaghetti into her mouth. She covered her mouth and giggled. Wiping her chin with the napkin from her lap, she leaned back and reached for her glass of water. Wetting the corner of her napkin, she dabbed and wiped at the sauce on her dress, only spreading it more. She laughed again.

He took a bite of garlic bread and just watched from across the table, smiling.

He looked up again and all he could see was the dirt patch he called a backyard. The smile remained but his eyes looked back down. That had never happened. He’d been alone so long he was imagining scenarios playing out with the woman he loved. Did she love him still?

Taking another drag from his cigarette and pull from his beer, he thought about the ways in which they differed. She loved soap operas, even though she called them “cheese.” He loved independent films, not usually box office hits. She like soft rock and love songs. He liked stoner metal and rap.

Another drag and pull from the tobacco and barley. Was she still accessible to him? Or had she closed off? Women have a way of expressing deep love but separating themselves from their lovers. Sometimes he wished he could do the same, but he couldn’t lie to himself.

They also had a lot in common. Both loved to intellectualize, rarely talking about people or things and always ending up talking about ideas, philosophy or “what ifs.” Though her ankle would get sore quickly, they loved taking walks. He loved watching the defiance in her steps, seeing her spirit almost grab the ankle and set it one foot in front of the other. They loved seeing and trying new things. They loved to cuddle. Kiss. Hold hands. Make love. Fuck. And make love again.

He knew why she left. There was never a wrong time to meet, only a better time to begin a relationship. When they met, he has just washed up on shore from a shipwreck. He knew he wasn’t ready, but…

He dropped his cigarette and poured the rest of his beer over it with a sizzle. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. Whatever came his way, he’d be ready, but he wanted it to be her.

Trade, Imagine, Concert

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

To give one thing for another.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be.
To act with another in harmony.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied and what they receive is what they return.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home. An existence more comfortable together than an existence apart, even at its most difficult.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking. To carry a conversation while balancing all the tangents, jokes and looks for years and years to come.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied and what they receive is what they return. Where they stand up as equals but lean on each other when necessary.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home. An existence more comfortable together than an existence apart, even at its most difficult. Fiercely individual, independent but inseparable.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking. To carry a conversation while balancing all the tangents, jokes, and looks for years and years to come. To pick up where they left off and know they pick up your slack as well.

That is what I want.

To give one thing for another, where both parties are satisfied and what they receive is what they return. Where they stand up as equals but lean on each other when necessary. When the relationship becomes the haven for the individual.
To create in the mind a picture of what could be. A home. An existence more comfortable together than an existence apart, even at its most difficult. Fiercely individual, independent but inseparable. A picture where both stand together in any setting or with backdrop, holding hands and smiling.
To act with another in harmony and dance without even thinking. To carry a conversation while balancing all the tangents, jokes and looks for years and years to come. To pick up where they left off and know they pick up your slack as well. To know that their worst can be accepted because their best is truly awesome.

That is what I want.

Button, Foster, Thumb

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

From one of the darkest spots on the sun, came a dude name Kafi. Blasting out of a solar flare, he broke through earth’s atmosphere and landed on the 10 freeway, somewhere between Texas and California. He looked up at the sun and waved his middle finger at it. Then he turned around and stuck out his thumb by the highway, waiting for a ride.

How Kafi knew to hitchhike is a question for anthropologists or psychologists or any of the “gists” that like to spend their time thusly. As for me, I’m mostly interested in his belly button, or the lack thereof, or really, its strange ability to appear every time Kafi peed. Which was also interesting because he urinated out of his left eye.

I was driving back to California after a trip to New Mexico where I picked up some dried chilis to be used as flavoring for table olives. I saw Kafi, on the side of the road, sticking out his right thumb and dabbing his left eye with the other arm. The picture it painted was one of heartbreak. This man had been left in the desert to die or broke down a few miles away and had started hitchhiking. Either way, the liquid streaming out of his eye touched me.

Pulling over and rolling down the window I asked, “Need a lift?” He gave a huge smile and climbed in through the open window before I had a chance to stutter out that he could open the door. Then he sat with his head where his legs should be and his legs dangling over the headrest.

The position freaked me out a little. At this point I wasn’t sure if his smile was sweet or scary.

“Where are you headed?” I asked. He just stared at me. After a few seconds he repeated back what I had said in my voice exactly.

“Where are you headed?” The perfect copy of my voice, at that moment, I dismissed as a fluke.

“I’m going to California,” I said.

“I’m going to California,” he said.

“Great, then I’ll make good time.” I said.

“Great, then I’ll make good time. I’m going to California. Where are you headed?” He said.

“I’m going to Colton, about an hour East of Los Angeles.” I said.

We were quiet for a while. I had turned down the radio a little bit to ask him if he needed a lift. A few miles down the road I noticed him shivering uncontrollably.

I looked at him and he pointed at the sun. I turned down the AC. He watched me and then reached for the dial, cranking the heat all the way up.

A few more miles down the road and I was sweating profusely but Kafi was still shivering. We passed a sign that said, “Fosters Freeze, 1 mile”.

“Let’s get some ice cream,” I said.

“Let’s get some ice cream,” he said.

Glad to be in agreement, I took the next exit and we pulled over for an ice cream. I stepped out of the car, grabbed my keys and went in. I ordered two of the largest, most deluxe items you could get. When I returned to the car, I found Kafi eating the chili’s whole. He wasn’t red, or sweaty or crying, or anything.

I stood staring at him as he ate, the ice cream melting in my hands. He noticed me, smiled wide and stuck out his thumb.

Insist, Nap, Meaning

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The cowboys silhouette dipped left and right with the trotting of the horse. Dust swirled around and the tumbleweeds hopped and rolled across the trail. The horse would slow its pace until spurs dug into its side. A quick gallop and then back to a trot but the cowboy demanded they keep moving.

The journey had started just before the sun started peaking at them from behind. Now the sun was slipping behind the mountains in front of them.

They came across a stream and the cowboy stopped, taking the bridle in his hand and leading the horse to water. As the horse drank, so the cowboy dipped his cowhide waterskin for his own drink. After filling it, he cupped a hand into the water and drank.

Spotting a tree across the stream, they walked through the water and tried to rest. The cowboy leaned up against the tree and covered his face with his hat. The horse bended its knees and collapsed immediately into a snore. They would continue on during the night but from transition of light to darkness they would sleep.

Only the sounds of the snoring horse, wind flapping through the leaves and the stream could be heard. The cowboy kicked off his boots and rubbed his feet, keeping the hat over his face. The horse kicked out but kept snoring.

Crickets, invisible to eye but not to the ear, began to drown out the other sounds. The cowboy fell asleep and dreamed.

Of swirling dust, giant tumbleweeds, snorting horses, distant gunshots, crying children and a woman’s embrace. Riding a 20-foot horse, the cowboy approached a city the likes of which he’d never seen. Buildings like mountains, lights in the shape of words and tropical fruits. A thousand bells ringing and glasses clinking. Carts with giant wheels pulled by invisible horses.

The cowboy now rode on a horse smaller than the carts that passed him. He looked up all around to see walls of glass and light. No signs of tumbleweeds, cacti or even dust. A man wearing a bright orange cowboy vest that reflected light carried a giant satchel over his neck and around his waist. The man walked up to the cowboy, looking down at him and tapped two notes together before handing him one.

The cowboy held it in his hand “two for one drink special at the spicy cabana. Girls drink free.”

The horse snorted in his sleep, waking the cowboy who removed his hat and looked out over the plain. No glow in the distance, no sun only the moon, stars and the crickets. Scratching his head, the cowboy pulled on his boots. He stood up and looked all around. With two quick clicks of his tongue, the horse sat up and the cowboy bent down to pet its mane.

Strap, Navy, Onion

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Wiping away the tears under an orange sky. A peach-orange hue mixed with fog, chemicals and city lights. The knife pushed into the onions sending up its own natural recipe of tear gas. One wrinkled hand picked up the cutting board and another used the knife to slide the chopped pieces into a pot.

Sizzling and hissing, the onions surrendered with a delicious smell.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM. The hands dropped the knife. The ships guns were starting their one-way messages. Boom. Boom. Boom. This time more distant, another ship in the fleet reiterating the firsts statement.

Picking up a potato, the hands deftly maneuvered the root vegetable into little starch squares. After each one, the hands picked up the cutting board and slid the pieces into the pot, adding to the onions smell.

After the potatoes came the carrots. The hands cut little circles, roughly the size of the squares and dropped them into the pot. Halfway through, a message from the enemy came through and rocked the ship back and forth. The hands dropped everything and grabbed a leather strap fastened to a steal handle on the kitchen wall.

The hands and strap swayed with the movement of the ship, both attempting to stay upright. It was only water that had been disturbed but the waves let the ship know it wasn’t pleased. The hands grabbed at the knife and carrot, now working slower, a little shakier.

A bead of sweat dropped onto the cutting board, a reminder. The hands grabbed a shaker of salt and sprinkled it into the pot.

Another message was sent from the enemy on shore, this time a BOOM. The ship’s lights turned red and the hands, fumbling for the strap, found themselves grasping for something as they slid on the floor, back and forth. Steadier, the hands pushed of the ground and shaking, attempted to pick up the knife. Realization. The knife set down, the hands grabbed the salt and a wooden spoon, stirring in salt with the other vegetables.

One hand fumbled for something inside a shirt. A necklace made of wooden beads all cascading down on a fishing line that ended in a lower case “t”. The other hand wiped sweat from a brow and scratched a temple.

“Who had cooked the last supper? Were they aware of the impending doom forecasted for later that evening? Were their signs?”

The pot steamed and the hands relaxed, back to their work.

Wave, Paper, Flexible

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Hands reached for the little boat. Fingers tapping its paper corners and sides but the current whipped it down the gutter. The blue and red ink began to puff out in areas where the boat was pelted with rain and splashed with the small waves rising over sticks, stones and garbage clogging the drains.

Dropped into the makeshift river, this little boat was light and feathery. It’s creases tight and corners sharp. Now after rain, rapids and collisions with hands and debris, the little boat was becoming heavy. The taut micro-fibers ultimately making up the boats triangular shape were losing their rigidity.

The rain turned to hail, and the sky’s angry kidney stones pelted the little boat. Each ice pea dunking portions of the paper vessel into the water. The sail was nailed from the side and submerged before teetering back to its shape. The bow was hit, and the boat flipped over, and righted itself once again, continuing its unguided journey.

No matter the danger, the boat stayed the course and went with the flow of the stream. The only thing that changed it was the fibers loosening their grip on its former shape. With each dip in the water, every wave, every reaching hand, stick, stone, hail or rain drop, the little boat slowly changed.

By the time the rain stopped, and the sun jostled its way through the angry clouds to dry its tears, the little boat was no longer that. Instead, a crumpled piece of paper snagged on a branch and dried in the sun.

A day later, with no rain, snow or hail forecast, a man without a home wandered down the street. The paper shivered in the wind, catching the man’s eye. He bent to pick it up and looked at its blue lines, like a watercolor prison door. Pulling a black marker from the side of his beanie, he wrote.

He stuffed the paper into his pocket and made his way to the intersection downtown. A woman, stopped at a red light looked over to her left and saw a sign that said, “Hungry, anything helps.”

The little paper had changed and changed back again. Now it would change again.

Average, Compose, Indication

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

A deep breath. A few quick blinks of the eyes. Pulling the shoulders back. Things to twitch out the nerves and get back to stasis.

To see a creature so rare for the first time cuts the breath short and tightens the ribs around your heart. To want to see that creature again is audacious. An indication of stupidity.

A horse can be seen on any farm, pasture, rodeo, fair, petting zoo, television set, film, etc. The unicorn is a different matter. You’ll find it when you’re not even looking and if your being isn’t ready it’ll slip out of sight just as quickly as you blink.

A graceful, powerful walk yet grown not from the pith of clouds, but the steel of cold and dark places. A glint shines from the tip of its horn, proving its readiness for battle. It’s coat white with muscles rippling through scarred skin. Blue eyes that burn with passion and dogged persistence. A fiery mane cascading down a neck and shoulders that have carried the burdens of weak men.

I saw that in a glimpse, and I cannot get enough. And if I should never see it again, I’ll console myself by knowing that at least I had that instant.

Twin, Undertake, Continental

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I weaved my way through jumping, sweaty people. Lights of all colors illuminating the room in a series of flashbulb photographs. My mind filling in the gaps where empty spaces had appeared a millisecond before. I touched my ear and in a flash of blue light saw some liquid on my hand, blood. The thudding continued. The sweat was making the hair on the back of my head stick to my neck at every swivel. Where was the bathroom?

I couldn’t know when this acid and bile was going to erupt from my stomach, but a mission to the find the bathroom was what I had to undertake.

To my right, a lizard tongue flickered from the scaly snout of a human sized reptile. No. I looked again. It was gone. I could see the sign with the naked human signifying my vomit sanctuary. The other wore a triangle.

The DJ booth was right in front of me, blocking the quickest route. I turned left. Something licked my right ear. I looked. A yellow eye blinked and the head in which it was housed pulled back its forked tongue.

The bathroom was right around a speaker, I grabbed the back of the speaker and propelled myself forward, through the swinging door of the bathroom. Straight through the swinging door of the first stall. The sides of the bowl caked in dried shit and the pieces of half-digested food of others. Grabbing the bowl of the toilet, my mouth opened and sprayed its own contents into what I realized was the mouth of some sort of lizard. Its tongue lapping at my sick.

Twins? That was my first thought. Not ‘what the fuck?’ or ‘is this really happening?’ My first thought, looking back was relatively rationale and progressive. Was this lizard a twin or a triplet? Not even, how the fuck was this huge lizard coming through the small toilet? I might as well have thought ‘from which part of the continental United States does this lizard hail?’ Jesus.

I pulled my head back and in that blur of a second, I was looking up at the stall door, the ceiling and lapping up sick from a familiar head opening its human mouth back at me. The lizard was gone but now I was looking out from the toilet.

A roar pierced through the thudding of the music. Water rushed all around my head and I began to spin. Faster. Faster. Faster until everything in view blended into shapes and colors. The shapes disappeared and all I could see was black.

The thudding crept back into my ear drums. A thousand little drummer boys in each ear banging to the same beat. I looked up and through the color tinted photographs saw the whole dance floor, the DJ booth, the bar and the signs for the bathroom at the other end of the room.

“Yo, are you alright?” a voice yelled in my ear. I looked up, it was human.

What? I said with my eyes.

“You threw up all over yourself.” The human yelled back.

I wiped at my chin, feeling wet from my beard. The table covered in yellow, bits of hotdog, and red ketchup. At least I hope it was ketchup.

Just a trip, that’s all. I leaned my head back and relaxed. It was over. Then I flicked out my tongue, cloven at the end, and lapped up the vomit.

Offspring, Forward, Tin

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It was a simple bike. A red one with a single gear. She loved it. With the exception of a few flat tires, the bike never gave her problems. Not like her previous cycles with their rows of teeth continually biting into the chain and causing it to slip with every hill climb, slope or flat. The red bike simply went, not backward, always in the same direction.

When her mind wandered, she would allow the bike and her legs to carry her body wandering as well. When she felt the pressures of all that is external tightening her body, she would let the curves, slopes and speed of a ride loosen her up. When her heart ached, the two wheels and single frame were as sturdy a companion as any. Though at times she did feel, out of want and not necessity, that a companion would be nice.

She thought about someone with whom she could share her joys, fears, triumphs and failures. Not out of necessity but simply of want, a desire not to be lonely. Perhaps even one day to share the lessons the two of them would learn about their joys, fears, triumphs and failures with little versions of themselves. To create life would be yet another adventure.

Pedaling every day for the same reason yet spurred by different emotions, she thought about her past attempts at love. As she mulled each relationship over in her mind like beads on an abacus, she considered the weight of each person she had loved or nearly loved.  The sum total of which lead her to a question, are there any good men left?

Climbing up a hill, she leaned off the seat and pedaled with her head down. Some of those men had been thieves, stealing her time, attention and love by not completely sharing themselves. Or in some cases, sharing much but not exclusively.

At the peak of the hill, she sat back down and slowed her feet. She thought of the men who had tried to stifle her, to prevent her from being herself and only being for them. Those relationships were shorter.

At the crest of the hill, she stopped pedaling and let the physics of the slope and the wheels do the work. She thought of one more lover and friend. He was none of those things yet he could not take care of himself.

She coasted into her driveway and into the garage. Perhaps someday, he would be ready to come home. Until then, she would protect her heart, protected by dented tin, nevertheless protected.

Today

Today was a good day.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

I blasted straight up through the clouds, punching that little grinning cherub on the 9th before rocketing past cloud 10, 11, 15, 37, 100.

I found another winning lotto ticket after losing the first in a drunken blur. Then, sober and aware, I found the first ticket, crumpled in a pocket.

I can see straight and think in any direction I choose. This morning I looked at the mirror, smiled, and realized I wasn’t staring at a stranger but looking at a friend.

I stepped out of my mind, out of my house and strangers walked up to me, asking about my shirt, my tattoos, my hat. The mask hid my smile but my crows feet must have been tap dancing around my shimmering disco ball eyes.

I have a full deck. I am kind, I am genuine, I am determined, I am empathetic, I love and want to be loved. I have bad cards too, but I’ve got a royal flush and I’m all in.

I am grateful, bowing to that mystical, cosmic energy. On my knees, not from defeat but in recognition and relief of victory.

She wore the band t-shirt I gave her before COVID cancelled the concert. I wore the band shirt she gave me the night before I wouldn’t see her for weeks after.

We met and I’m just glad I got to see her. I’m glad she got to see me. I’m glad I’m starting to see myself.

So now I look up at the stars before I go to bed and the terrors grip me, gasping in my sleep. I know I’ll wake up and have a beautiful day. And if I die before I wake, I’ll have lived a good day today.

Homophones

Exploring homophones.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Have the cents to make a fortune.
Have the sense to make a fortune.

Dwell under the air of your discontent.
Dwell under the heir of your discontent.

Explore the aisle to find your food.
Explore the isle to find your food.

Shave the hair.
Shave the hare.

Let it be.
Let it bee.

I am mail in a box.
I am male in a box.

Too much waste.
Too much waist.

It is dark in the morning.
It is dark in the mourning.

Enjoy the suite.
Enjoy the sweet.

Find your piece.
Find your peace.

I don’t know.
I don’t, no.

And my youth is…

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

And my youth
is running out
and your age
is coming
to an end
and our time
together
has been
short lived.

So when my time
comes
let it be
in the embrace
of a hug,
the verge
of a smile
or
that wave of
emotion
that crashes into
a new parent
when they hold
their child
for the first time.

Let it be
in the silent scream
of a shooting star.