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3 Poems || Jeff Alessandrelli

“I love berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, anything with an ‘errie’ in it!”—Jordin Sparks  


Thrillberries are poisonous.


Gaudy linguistic


allure could tell you that


but like the shy, buxom brunette


that seems too good to be true


and then, in the end, is


humans often lust and crave


after thrill-


berries anyway.


This book is not to be doubted


reads one of the first sentences in The Koran


and yet depending on the translator,


the translation,


even that beginning is


rich with doubt.


Within life’s bearded tidal




of language, of lordliness—


inevitably rusts,




What’s beautiful and true


rarely rhymes in time




Hickory dickory dock.


Loose lips sink


long lecherous limber




Thrill kills


kill kill kill.




August 28th


Urban alchemy teaches us

that, depending on one’s addictions,


gold reveals itself within many guises,

nearly all of them makeable, instantly ready for purchase.


That there are more African-American males in jail today

than there were slaves in the antebellum American South,


that over 66% of them are incarcerated for the selling of narcotics,

teaches us that midnight in a perfect world


is going to bed late and sleeping poorly,

waking up still tired.


For months on end it’s been evening

all day long;


an entire lifetime spent

learning how to be yourself


and perpetually failing

in ways not even your own.


Nightmares are imaginary but often

steeped in what was once real.


Gold’s gaudy, garish, especially

in the summer,


portentous weight of the heat’s dripping

licking sun.


The hard bright mist of hip-hop sprays

out a million passenger side windows this evening.


On tiptoe, in packs, each car slowly sidles by.



Poem against Adulthood 


Raping a slave is easy,

too easy. My job

sucks; yours is worse.

I’m unemployed

in the same manner as

the sun at night:

grand, idealized notions of what

might have been

if not for such sudden darkness.

I miss recess,

the golden miles between ignorance and regret,

between cargo shorts and collared shirts,

getting up at 6 because you want to




getting up at 6 because—something.

Age’s error is identifiable

not by number

but by sound, sight:

wrangled cracking of an oak

tree’s branches, perpetual,

close, distant,

the moon visibly alive

only at the very beginning

and end of our lives.

Dirt, dirt;

dying, I assume, hurts.

I’ll never know.

Food stamp kid

in a food stamp land,

I’m a bicycle accident waiting to happen.

Forever young,

may you stay


it’s the sick jokes that stick.

Leaves lisping

in the summer breeze,

the world’s beauty is unjust.

Grow up.



Jeff Alessandrelli is the author of the recently published full-length collection THIS LAST TIME WILL BE THE FIRST. Other work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Gulf Coast and Boston Review, among others. The name of Jeff’s dog is Beckett Long Snout. The name of Jeff’s chapbook press is Dikembe Press.





Astronauts Can’t Be Leonards /// New Fiction by Chris McCartney

Ever sucker punch yourself because your ears wasn’t stuffed with cotton when you learnt the rest of your life was going to be a suckfest? I did. Broke two knuckles. If there was a way to rewind backwards to that bloody afternoon, I woulda chose to eyeball my step-Grammy’s Section 8 cooter rather than get told my family tree had a dumbass parked on practically every branch.

     Me and Grammy was hanging out, watching Little House on the Prairie reruns at her apartment. When you’re twenty-three, been rocking her ganj for hours and woofing popcorn tins like they was lobsters – you’re on top of the world and think there’s nothing that can’t go wrong. Her weed made you forget all them D.U.I.’s and restraining orders. You didn’t care you was unemployed or what month the calendar said it was. What you didn’t expect was to get knifed in the ribcage.

     Grammy’s ambush caught me totally unawares. If I wasn’t so stoned, maybe I coulda seen it coming. Karate chopped that wrinkly arm before she stuck me. I respected Grammy for how fast she moved, but the poor old lady just wasn’t strong enough to gash any vitals.

     Blood squirted out the knife hole, down the outside of my ribs and half-filled my pants pocket. Didn’t want to blow up and start a war because I love my Grammy, so I pretended I got into a scuffle with Little Joe. Figured if I made him look like a real tossbag, she wouldn’t feel bad about trying to kill her grandson.

     Bloodstains don’t come out of velour couches. I found that out when Grammy flipped me a ragged old doily and told me to plug up the hole with it or else I had to steal her something new to sit on. You never question anything she says you if you know what’s good for you. Like when she cooks something. Even if it tastes like lug nuts, I always eat it. If I don’t, she’s liable to pour hot oil down my back. By the way, the reason Grammy got pissed was because I mopped up some spilled bong water with her brown wig. BFD. When she wears that thing, it looks like a badger landed on her head.

     She refolded the switchblade. Slipped it back into her knickers. Said it was time I learnt about where I come from. I wanted to bolt because I was pretty sure babies came from vaginas and I was afraid she’d show me her flaps. You can probably imagine my relief when she kept them knees together and unrolled a sheet of yellowish paper.

     I didn’t get that pot boner fantasizing about my Grammy. I got excited because I anticipated she was going to tell me this was a treasure map. Told her to just show me the island and I’d be shovel ready. I hit the bong hard. Like a ancient pirate would do.

     She gave me a pathetic stare. Youda thought I spray painted her cat. Grammy sobbed and voodoo clucked while her crooked finger ouija’d all over that map. Was she playing me? Trying to throw me off by pointing to the wrong place? I blew up. Smacked her a good one to the side of her head. Pretty sure she seen stars.

     Grammy rolled up the map and looked right into my bloodshots. Said this wasn’t no buried treasure map. It was a chart of my family tree. I replied by saying she was full of crap. Grammy got one of them teacher looks on her face, which made me want to cheat. Said the chart had higher accuracy than a lie-detractor machine. It proved I resulted from generations of big-balled idiots on papa’s side knocking up wagonloads of boozy crackers on mama’s side.

     That last sentence hung in the air like she pooted a taco. Changed my life. When you get proof your body’s chock-full of stupid genes, your list of options grows to practically nothing. It means you can never be a astronaut. Or win a Mega Millions. No use taking another GED test. Demoralized me to where I wanted to guzzle kerosene.

     This may surprise you, but it blunted a secret fantasy of mine. At one time, I had a hankering to be a writer. Maybe land a job reporting on traffic accidents or advise people about what fork to use when they have company. Well – scratch all that. Them experts say you should write about what you know. Ever since I was a kid, I heard Grammy and every dirt-bag in town say, “That poor little Ardel Leonard. He don’t know shit.”

McCartney has been sacked by several powerful organizations for his inability to brown-nose and his goat-logic problem solving skills. His work has appeared in The Story Shack and Squawk Back.