“Real” by J.C. Mari


you load up
on valium to forget

what you did
after 7 long islands
2 vodkas on ice and
one fucking beer

on a very clear Sunday
could have been spent

how I have no clue

And now there’s
the fear of eyes
like dog-sized rats
trailing you

waiting for you to
slip on your blood and
fall helpless.

The dawn’s
open grave

I remember US
twisted around each
other like snakes

drunk, asleep
as the wind beat
your penthouse windows

a very long
time ago
so long that you’re
not in the picture anymore
and I can’t say I’m
not glad but

seems more real

than what I did

7 long islands, 2
vodkas on ice and one
fucking beer,

more real than the valium
more real than
the goddam

ice blocks
through my mind.

(54 lines)

Justin’s Note: J.C. Mari. The most notorious of the usual suspects. We catch him hangin’ around these parts often. He’s one of us. The writers rejected by the collegiate academic types and everyone else who’s claimed to have mastered the craft. He’s taken residence in this shantytown lit journal filled with all walks of life from pot smoking narcissists to your every day Icarus’.Do I have a bone to pick with J.C.? Yeah, I do. I don’t like warm beer.


“Last Words” by Sarah Bigham

Last Words

Well, good riddance is what I say. That man about ate everything in my pantry and then some. Only have half a box of cereal left, goddamn it. I hate the grocery store–wheelin’ around those carts with them squeaky wheels. You get your stuff and try to get in a line but lord I always wind up behind some kinda coupon fiend storin’ up on toilet paper and bleach. You put everything in bags and haul it to the car and drive it home and unload it and then put it all away. Look, the kids are gettin’ off the bus and it’ll be a circus in here in a minute so I’ve got to go. I’m exhausted and really, is it too much to ask to have a little Cool Whip left? I thought about puttin’ a lock on that freezer in the garage. Didn’t do it, but sure wish I had.

I had a coupon for that department store out near the bypass. You know how I like their towels the best and it has been so hard to find any in navy. I guess navy isn’t a popular color nowadays, but I have always thought it was a classy choice for a powder room. So I searched through the tower of towels on display, all folded up in these complicated, newfangled ways, impossible to really see what you might be buying, and I said to the girl in the linens department, I said–oh wait–I hear beeping–someone else must be calling–I’ll have to go–I bet it’s your father.

Your father has found the mother lode of stuff at a barn sale out County Route 9. There are bat droppings everywhere, but he remains undeterred. I’ll tell him you called.

You called me twice already. I still don’t know where the gerbil is. I’ll look again later.


(315 words)

Justin’s Note: Sarah Bigham is a mystery. A wonderful writer in both prose and poetry, but damnit she’s a mystery. Is this prose or poetry? Does it matter? Please, take a step back and read through this piece again. Sarah Bigham reads, teaches, and writes in Maryland where she lives with her kind chemist wife, their three independent cats, and an unwieldy herb garden. Some of her work has been published. Most of it has not. Find her at www.sgbigham.com.

News – 8/2/16

Dear readers, The Chaotic Review is back, and we’re better than ever. Now we accept fiction and non-fiction along with our staple brand of poetry. We fell off for a while, a brief hiatus and nothing more. Mistake not, we’re still alive, and we’re thriving. We’ve learned. We’ve Grown.

“Porcelain Woman” by Hannah Westfall

Porcelain Woman

A woman of porcelain

Skin a paling tile

Laid under an antique clock

Presenting her time of death.


In a room of preparation

White skin is wiped clean

Unveiling a translucent sheet

Stretched over pale bones.


They leave her skeleton bare

But paint her cold lips

Red like a blushing maiden

Red like her spilt blood.


They wrap her in silk

A pale happy yellow

Her hair pinned to perfection

Ready for her death date.


They lay her in a coffin

Lovely in the darkness

Her cracked porcelain face

Reflecting her destination.


Taken to a cemetery,

Home for the dead

Hell for the living

A woman of porcelain is laid to rest.

(24 lines)

Justin’s Note: When I first started this journal, set up the e-mail, wrote the submissions guidelines, I was eager to read my first submission. One day while I worked, I checked my phone and saw I had an e-mail. That submission was from Hannah Westfall, and it was a single poem, Porcelain Woman.

“Study of a Mosquito” by Domenic Scopa

Study of a Mosquito 

A mosquito trapped in the sunporch
in May
hankers for the heaven

of sodium streetlamps
glowing yellow,
like the bells of jellyfish

hung in sun-starved waters
off the shoreline,
in a peace nothing disturbs.

Heaven must be there,
or it’s nowhere.
Earlier, in the hospital lobby,

where there are always people,
they fed,
or flew out slowly

to study prey
in the parking lot
murky with light

Their stings inescapable
as a hypodermic needle
drawing blood

in some room in the cancer ward…
This mosquito’s the shade
of soil after a downpour.

It buzzes back and forth,
as if claiming turf.
And its eyes,

when looked at closely,
sheen without character,
like oil slicks in sunshine.

It’s been here a long time
ticking against the screen door,
and waiting.
It’s midnight.
All the patients
are in their places.

(36 lines)

Justin’s Note:  Domenic is a three time pushcart nominee and he proves his poetic worth with this amazing piece.

“When the Star People” by Tom Montag

When the Star People

When the star people come

and sing for us and play

their strange instruments,

tap your feet, nod your head

to the beat. This is not

a dream. This is life

lived at the speed of light.

That music you hear is

the music of the spheres.

Their song is calling us.

All things fall away to

the star dust we become

(12 lines)

Justin’s Note: The subtle verse of Tom Montag is a fixture of modern poetry. I got his submission a while back, I knew who he was and had read some of his work. It’s an honor to have such a talented poet here, and a bit of a sneak peek, there’s more to come.

“Carthage Burning” by J.C. Mari

Carthage Burning

As I walked past the motel
she jumped from
nowhere into my
field of vision

breath heavy with
Irish Rose and
looking like she had
been smoking
crack inside
a garbage bin
for hours

and she knew my name.
“Hey J.C.! can I
get a hug?”
and I gave it
quick and
and she
touched my
belly with
both hands and
I knew what was next so I said

“hey, how you doing,
take care of yourself”
and it was like
telling a man losing his
arm to gangrene
make sure and
keep it

I didn’t know
what the fuck to
say and
I had to
get out fast:

under all that
shit her curves
still barked
and all
she needed
to roar was
a shower , a
drink and
more dope,

All I
had to do
provide all
three and

As I
walked away
I couldn’t
remember her
name or
where I
knew her
from and I
still can’t

it doesn’t matter
’cause I
know her,


exigent circumstance

thought that
made Lot’s
wife turn

unforeseen causality

Carthage burnt.

(75 lines)

Justin’s Note: There’s something about the simplicity and truth behind J.C.’s poetry that leaves me besotted. He doesn’t try to perfume his pile of shit, instead, he throws it in your face and makes no apologies for ruining your ear-to-ear grin. There is, quite simply, no place to run.