John Bennett

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The Holiday Season

Memorial Day
has come &
gone so
has Mother's
Day &
Father's Day
& the
first day
of summer
the days
are getting
shorter but
no one
notices the
earth tilt
Jazz in
the Valley
has packed
up its
horns &
here comes
Labor Day &
four days
of rodeo
with no
place to

If I can
make it
thru that
Halloween is
a breeze
I just
sit in
the dark
saying the
rosary &
don't open
the door
& Thanksgiving
is mostly
a matter
of finding
excuses to
turn down

Then comes
the long
haul to
Christmas &
New Year's
& the
is brutal.
Guilt trips
& presents
piety &
past ghosts
the suicide
rate soars
but we
hang on
like pit bulls
year after
year after

A slow
fall into
Day a
Saint Patrick's
Day Easter
& then
it's time
once again
to honor
the boys
that we
send off
to be

The Survival Meal

A little man lives in my head. He gives orders. He overrides considerations. He doesn't take no for an answer. Right now he has me parked out front of Circle K in the dark at seven o'clock at night with a 16-ounce cup of coffee and the engine running, writing on a yellow pad under the light from the neons under the awning.

For some reason the little man in my head doesn't want me to write at home. He prefers I go up on the hill overlooking the valley, but if that's not possible, he grabs hold of whatever's available. I tried to argue with him about this Circle K business, but he wouldn't listen.

Three sexy women have gone into the Circle K since I've been sitting here, and each time the little man cut me off before I could write them down. "That's not what we're here for," he said. But here I am, slipping it in anyway. I've still got some say in things.

Ten minutes until the movie starts. It's Christmas night and I'm going to a movie.

People keep going into the store. They come back out with cases of beer, gallons of milk, things in cellophane wrappers. There's an advertisement on the Circle-K door for the Survival Meal--a picture of a hot dog in a bun with a ribbon of mustard on it, a small bag of Lay's potato chips, and a twenty-ounce Styrofoam cup of cola with a desolate landscape printed on it under the date "2012". Something Mayan. All for $3.50.

This may be the reason the little man sent me here.

To tell you about the Survival Meal.

To make me aware that the world is coming to an end.

The Wicked Witch of Dead Sex

Secret admiration societies stockpiling hemlock. Skillets filled with half-baked fish. The warning light that blinks while you sleep. The line you step over continually in spite of the spiders and quicksand. The furry answer that you stroke like a kitten. The tiny viper that coils up in your knee sock. The pledge and promise that you can't keep your hands off. The trembling turtle dove on the high-voltage wire. The circling hawk. The tuba band of beer-soaked Germans.

Sex dies, sex dies, and then what? You retreat to a house made of gingerbread and huddle close to the oven, telling lies to the wicked witch who sits in her rocking chair and checks you out with her one good eye.

"Let me touch it," she says in her crackling voice.

"No, no," you say. "Those days are gone."

"Stoke the coals in the oven then," she says, "and set the table."

"What's for supper, hon?" you blurt out. "What's that you got in the oven?"

"Come on over here and give me a peek at it," she says, and swats you alongside the head with her broom.

"Please," you say.

"You want I should turn into a princess?"

"I ain't the one you're lookin' for, babe!" you sing out.

She lets out a screech, hops on her broom and flies around the room two or three times, stirring up the bats that had been hanging from the rafters. Her burlap gown slides up her thighs, revealing gray legs covered with hair and warts. She lands back in her rocker, exhausted, and flings her witch's hat in the corner. She begins furiously scratching her dry scalp, her tangled gray hair dancing every-which way.

You begin to wish sex hadn't died. If sex hadn't died you'd be in the arms of some golden girl on a tropical beach instead of trapped in a witch's gingerbread house in the Dark Forest.

You're startled out of your reverie by her gnarled hand clutching your knee. She's kneeling before you, her eyes green and sad.

"It's only memories," she says softly. "Here, let me show you what the future holds."

And she opens the oven door.


John Bennett was for many years the driving force behind Vagabond Press which operated on the run from Munich to DC to New Orleans to San Francisco and beyond.  He’s published four novels, two novellas, five short story collections and numerous books of poetry, essays and shards, a poem/story hybrid of his own invention.

He keeps slamming out the words, if anything with more ferocity than ever. As Henry Miller said so eloquently around half a century ago, “You may as well have your say, they’re going to shit on you anyway.”