Sunday, July 31, 2022

A Raw Ride: review of Marty Cain's The Wound Is (Not) Real—by Su Zi



     The reader approaches a text, and there’s a relationship between them, a conversation between the voice of the text and the potential for resonance with the reader; however, not all texts are specifically representative of the author, personally. In the case of a memoir, the reader enters the text, and that relationship, with the notion that it is also the author’s life in the text, is somehow personal, if vicarious. Of late, readers have sometimes been given the sort of warning that’s seen in cinema; notifications of disturbing content. In Marty Cain’s The Wound Is (Not) Real: A Memoir (Trembling Pillow 2022), the content warning also includes “Readers with photosensitive epilepsy should be aware that some of the linked videos (accessed through the QR codes) contain flashing lights”.  Since not many texts contain QR codes, the reader is also alerted to the potential for a non-traditional format for the work overall. While the book proclaims itself a memoir, this is not a prose-only chronology, nor is the work overtly prose, as some pieces are stream-of-consciousness, some are narrative prose, others are narrative poems, including a piece titled “Narrative Poem” (81).

      The work itself starts with a prologue that establishes the voice of the text as a Sibling Of A Disabled Person, but the structural arc of this prologue involves memory overall, makes overt allusion to Joe Brainard’s “I Remember” as an architecture for fragments that introduce character and setting. The prologue ends with a QR code. Thus, the reader is alerted to graphic elements in the text: the use of upper case, Selby-like run on sentencing, bold face, spatial elements and sometimes purely graphic use of the pound and asterisk keys. To their credit, the publisher includes these elements, but whether the use of a single old English font letter for the start of pieces is the editor’s or author’s decision as a helpful reading marker only adds to the subtle aesthetics of this work.

     Such a work as this is as much meditation as memoir, memory filtered through the experiences of life. Lest the reader too readily dismiss the text as merely some post-punk hybrid, “Wordsworth Poem” begins with three paragraphs in a type of high-wire standard critical thought that then becomes a swan dive into memory. The transition here, debating Wordsworth’s 

choice of poetic form, makes the observation “And form is a feeling/ // And form is a garment/ //

And in my mind, I return to the clothes” (23), peeks into the core structure of this work: each piece’s structure is chosen to clothe the thesis, the work is dressed in prose or QR codes, each episode has a Look.

     These devices seem intended to a accentuate the physical deeds done in this work. In “Kids of The Black Hole, Part II”, which is presented as prose stanzas, the first stanza includes “He’s done it before. He’s hatch-marked his arms and shown me the scars” (35), one of the text’s many references to self-harm. The piece continues with “We’d kissed before. He’s asked me to blow him. I’s said no. I turned off the light. I don’t think I spoke”, but then continues as a meditation between trauma and art “It feels good and it hurts”. It is here that the repetitive use of wound in this work overall is given the thesis of “The wound is not real / // This, too, is perhaps a common sentiment for victims of abuse” (37). What the reader experiences is a clearly curated collection of violent memories at a rather gentle remove.

    As a literary work, Cain’s book is energetic. The work has a distinctive auditory quality that makes it true to its contemporary copyright. And while the book overtly self-identifies as memoir, “This is still my confessional poem” (36) also seems traditionally apt. The reader in search of inspo-porn memoir will find few soft feelings here.  The dozen or so small press zines that published these pieces prior to their collection here speaks to our current culture yen for such exposures of intimate darkness. It is then for each reader to depart the work in confrontation with their own landscape, be their experience one of horror or of catharsis. 


Su Zi is a writer, poet and essayist who produces a handmade chapbook series called Red Mare. She has been a contributor to GAS from back when it was called Gypsy Art Show, more than a decade ago.


Check out her author page on Amazon.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: Michael Lee Johnson


Michael Lee Johnson lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet in the greater Chicagoland area, IL. He has 259 YouTube poetry videos. Michael Lee Johnson is an internationally published poet in 44 countries, several published poetry books, nominated for 4 Pushcart Prize awards, and 5 Best of the Net nominations. He is editor-in-chief of 3 poetry anthologies, all available on Amazon, and has several poetry books and chapbooks. He has over 443 published poems. Michael is the administrator of 6 Facebook Poetry groups. Member Illinois State Poetry Society.

Exiled Poet


Exiled eye


now 10 years here, I turn

rain into thunder,


days switch,

my back-pain muskmelon

into loneliness



In the nakedness of life


moves this male shadow

worn-out dark clothes,


ill-fitted in distress,

he bends down

prays for the dawn.



Poetry Man


Death still comes in the shadow of grief,

hides beneath this blanket of time,

in the heat, in the cold.


Hold my hand on this journey

you won’t be the first, but


you may be the last.


Monday, July 25, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: Mike McLaren


Mike McLaren makes his living as a writer, poet, and musician. He knows the lyrical is the only vocation with honor. In 1991 he published a collection of original Arthurian Legend stories with Hobby House Press, and in that same year a writing textbook for Colorado State University. He lives with his wife and two Chihuahuas along the Colorado Front Range, and when there are no words to work with, Mike and his wife spend their weekends biking the Continental Divide ― with the two tiny dogs being pulled along in their own bike trailer.

Always Here

How deep does the mountain
extend into the Earth?
How far beyond the valley
will the river flow?
From the crest of a ridge,
I breathe in mist
that fingers its way
through tall fir and cedar,
I look at my feet.
Walking down the slope
my hair drips
with a Pacific Northwest downpour;
trickles go down my neck,
into my shirt.
Thick forest, rising streams,
a path traveled not nearly enough,
birds whistle, day wanes—
I look at my feet.
How far did I travel
to get here?
Why did I want
to go there?

Musical Movement

The baton raises, quivers
just for an eternity,
then a guiding hand
slides it into the music
with rhythmic pulses and long thrusts
that lead the notes through a blend
of deep and lifting harmonies.
Notes fall together,
in and out of one another,
arching across slurs and andantes,
dancing through triplets,
touching measure upon measure
until the music can no longer be held
and is released to the silence
felt only by the musicians.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: Gerry Fabian

He has published four books of his published poems, Parallels, Coming Out Of The Atlantic, Electronic Forecasts and Ball On The Mound.
In addition, he has published four novels : Getting Lucky (The Story), Memphis Masquerade, Seventh Sense and Ghost Girl. 
His web page  

Hidden Danger
Holding a slight advantage
in various venues
determines the degree.
Depth of situations
elongate mini-moments.
Never exist like this.
Detouring the collapse
always fails -
Negating any luck
generates rapid response.
Enter with extreme caution
rather than broken bravado.

When The Fad Fades Away


You were in my creative writing class.
With your black Goth girl clothing
and multiple piercings,
you felt they marked you as creative.
You sat in the back with ear buds
and never took a note.
The final grade was based on a portfolio
of work completed during the semester.
When I opened your folder,
all it contained was a stained grocery list.


Today, several years later,
I see you in Walmart
pushing a stroller
while holding a screaming toddler
on your hip.
Our eyes meet but you quickly
turn away and hurry down another aisle.
You drop something in your haste,
I go over and pick it up.
It is a grocery list
and I resist the urge 
to correct the misspellings.

Requiescat Canto V
The Maze


Is it a matter of escape
that so gluts the brain
so as to fuse the torment
into a walking sloth
that spews wounded oaths
at chairs and walls -
that falls to the floor
and writhes in a fire singe
of personal doubts -
that freezes motion
for hours upon hours
in a living altar sacrifice
to atone for the anguish
that has no other escape.


I have been to the brink,
wavered at the edge
and stopped the fall
just often enough
to know that escape
has captured too many
of the people I love.  


Monday, July 18, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: Ed Ahern

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had almost four hundred stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of nine review editors. He’s also lead editor at The Scribes Micro Fiction magazine. On TwitterFacebook, and Instagram .

The Mixing Bowl


My parents had almost nothing in common.

True both personally, and in their bloods.

The recipe to make me included ingredients

foreign to each other and repudiating family lore.


My mother’s half was said to be evenly split

between English and Swedish forbearers.

But there was apparent hanky-panky.

In the distant past a German and a Scot

tossed 3% and 1% respectively into my bowl.

England and Sweden added only 10% and 20%

and a cross-border Norwegian or two

provided 16% of my ingredients.


My father was vowed to be completely Irish.

And that seems closer to being true.

except for my long forgotten traces

of a probably marauding Scottish 8%

and a faint but defined Welsh 1%,

which is why I’m writing this poem.





Losing It


Acuity is a gift often stolen

by age or disease or self-abuse;

furies jealous of a mind so clear

that living well is subconscious.

The theft is subliminal and slow,

imperceptible and immutable,

leaving strong emotions searching

for their lost champion.



Wednesday, July 13, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: PW Covington


PW Covington writes in the beat tradition of the North American highway. He is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, and has featured at San Francisco's Beat Museum. Covington's most recent collection of poetry, malepoet. is published by Gnashing Teeth Publishing.

Liver Spots

I have been watching age spots
Appear on my arms and hands
A few more
On my neck and shoulders

Like both of my grandfathers
To days
Spent outside
Under violent ultraviolet

I’ve scraped and scratched
Sloughed them off
Yet, they return
Like blemishes
During a criminal history
Background check

Concealable, still
Yet indelible
No longer worth the effort
They tell the story
In liver-tinted tones
Of summer days at sea
Sunbathing on prison concrete rec-yards

Of living a life uncovered

Tanning my flesh
In tiny, speckled,

Side effects
Of inescapable

Off Screen

The things we love
Or hate
The most
Prepare us best for death
Unseen, off screen
To just the right or left
Valium nights and
Even the dog needs

Learn to let go
As it gets torn away
A chorus of a million horny angels
Kicked off AM radio
By angry men with
Steel-strong fists
Iron lungs

And know
There comes a time
When the air will no longer
Be able
To sustain you
Entertain you

Hitting marks, unseen
Off screen
To just the right
Or left

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: William Doreski


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021).  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.


Mushrooms and Orchids

When I joke about your obsession

with mushrooms and orchids you gaze

with inhuman flicker candid

as a reptile’s. The Sunday light

refracted by your smile hurts

the churchgoing crowd you despise,

and like me they regard you

from the corners of their eyes as if

afraid some curse will apply.

Some claim you sleep under toadstools.

Some even whisper that the pink

of the lady slipper tempts you

to a devilish sort of excess.

Yet you’re harmless as the flora

you admire, excepting the toxic

amanita, the flesh of which

is tough and white as your thighs.

Monday, July 4, 2022

GAS Featured Poet: Kenneth Pobo


 Kenneth Pobo grew up in Villa Park, Illinois, but now lives in Pennsylvania.  He is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections.  Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), Uneven Steven (Assure Press), Sore Points (Finishing Line Press) Lilac and Sawdust (Meadowlark Press) and Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose (BrickHouse Books). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Human rights issues, especially as they relate to the LGBTQIA+ community, are also a constant presence in his work. 


Many things paralyze Bobolinko.  His friend

Mina asked him point blank “Do you prefer

spring or fall?”  He shifted from foot to foot,

eyes glazing over.  The radio plays “Sure Thing”

by Dionne Warwick.  He had been sure

of one thing, Phil, who resembled

the Lincoln Monument.  He expected him

to always be there.  Phil left him after slightly

less than five years.  He said,

“This just isn’t working out.  You’re

a nice guy, but I need something more.” 

Either he had no idea that the letdown

was coming or he chose not to see it. 

He didn’t think that the Lincoln Monument

would shake off Georgian marble

and walk away.


Hobbies help.  Sometimes Bobolinko goes

to his basement and does woodburning. 

He purposely burns too deeply,

making any word illegible.  The smell

attracts him, sweet and acrid,

the burnt wood, the deep gash smoking.  



Pink at the lip

of earth, 



shorter than my ankle,

change a forest

each spring.  A wildflower

has a quiet power,  





long enough

for lasting joy.