Monday, November 23, 2020


As a kid

I would go to the bars with my Dad, and get bored.

Sure, in Wisconsin you could drink with your parents when you were sixteen,

but the beer just made me realize all the more how boring life in the country can be.

Everyone’s eyes glossed over while yelling at the Packers Game.

Drinking was more fun when it wasn’t allowed, when

I was off under bridges with the boys.

My Dad and I

would play darts or pool.

He would play well and I wouldn’t really try.

But we liked to play the jukebox and talk music.

What I really liked was when they had Karaoke.

I never picked the party songs.

You know what I mean: Journey, Bon Jovi, or “Sweet Home Alabama.”

I liked to pick the odd songs, the freaky songs, the ones that rang true when I was off smoking and drinking in the graveyard with the boys.

Imagine a group of nice middle-aged Baby Boomers drinking suds, when

a shaggy teenager starts singing “When The Music’s Over” by The Doors.

My voice was never in tune, just wailing, the adolescent voice cracking.

I was shrieking the drug-soaked songs from their own generation.

Rubbing their faces in their old music was more shocking than singing Marilyn Manson.

They would get anxious and feel all the horror their parents felt.

One time after singing “White Rabbit,” which ends with the line “Feed your head!” an old fisherman told me, “ That means read more books.”

“I read plenty, sir.”

Afterwards, even though I was being a smartass punk,

I would feel very old and very young at once,

and that was a good feeling

Westley Heine
 is a writer and multimedia artist. He is known for his documentaries Poetry in Action and Trail of Quetzalcoatl, the latter of which has a companion book of poetry. Publications of his work have been in The Chicago Reader, Gravitas, Beatdom, Verse of Silence, Bleached Butterfly, and Wellington Street Review. His writing examines love, death, street life, class oppression, madness, and everything from the disturbing to metaphysical revelation. He grew up in Wisconsin, was educated in Chicago, and bummed from New York to Mexico to California. He now resides with his wife in Los Angeles.
Instagram: @westleyheine

Friday, November 20, 2020

Good Time Girl

It was during my sophomore year at Ohio University when I first met her. Her name was Gay.

We were in the same sociology class and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was a cute blond with a smile that lit up the room. When she laughed, she laughed hard. It was infectious. Everyone in her orbit laughed with her. She wasn’t a typical beauty, more like the girl next door who never realized how naturally pretty she really was. This, I think, made her that much more attractive. Back in my hometown of Brooklyn, she would be referred to as “Bubbly, bubbly like a bottle of recently uncorked Champagne. Not quite Dom Perignon, mind you, but a drinkable vintage nonetheless.”

For several weeks, I went out of my way to make small talk with her. I worked my way into study groups with her and even got to know her schedule so I could “accidentally” bump into her. To be honest, I was inexperienced with girls and really didn’t have the swagger and self confidence that afforded an average guy like me the ability to just ask her out. I quietly hoped for the perfect moment when I would be certain the feeling was mutual. That moment never came. Instead, it was Gay who made the first move. We were both invited to a party at another classmate’s apartment when she chose to sit next to me on the floor, next to the stereo. She was carrying two unopened cans of Stroh’s, handed me one and then plopped down, Indian style.

We talked for hours and were the last party guests to leave. But the night wasn’t over yet. We spent another couple of hours sharing a basket of french fries at an all-night diner, and then another hour standing between our cars in the parking lot. She was funny, smart, and the absolute coolest girl I had ever met. As the sun was coming up, we made plans to go out again.

“Let’s go on a proper date,” is what she said.

“Give me your number and I’ll give you a proper call,” was my answer.

Within just a few days, we were inseparable. I really liked her. And I liked the way she made me feel. The connection I felt with her was something I had never experienced with any other girl before.

She was spontaneous and bold and exciting. At any moment, without any planning, we would find ourselves at a movie theater, or on the way to Columbus to see a concert, or at a random friend’s house party. It was at one of these parties that I met an old high school friend of hers. We were casually chatting when he referred to Gay as a “good time girl.” I knew what he meant, but didn’t ask questions. It didn’t matter to me. I liked her and wanted to do everything I could to show her a good time.

Apparently, I was not good enough. One night about two or three months into our relationship she let me know we were done. Finished. Broken up. As I look back, I always wonder if we ever started at all.

I was only 20-years-old. And up until that point, that short little relationship with Gay was the biggest and most important thing that had happened to me. I had no idea how to act or react. Was I supposed to simply chalk it up to a life experience? Tell myself there’s plenty more fish in the sea? Or, maybe dredge up another cliché designed to treat the wounds of the heart?

Nope. I decided to get drunk. Crippling drunk. Not off the 3.2 percent swill that Schlitz and Pabst called beer. I was going to get falling down drunk in a real bar. The only problem was that I was one year under the legal drinking age in the State of Ohio, and I didn’t have a phony ID. I knew the college bars wouldn’t serve me. There was no way they’d risk having their license suspended by serving a skinny underage kid like me. But I was determined. I suppose it wasn’t just about getting drunk. I needed this for me; I needed to prove to myself that I was as bold and exciting and spontaneous as Gay.

I remembered hearing about a townie bar that didn’t ask questions or check IDs. It was called the Union Bar, named for both its location and its blue-collar clientele.

I gathered up the mettle and walked through the big wooden door and into the dimly lit, smokey wonderland. What a beautiful place. The centerpiece was a beat-up bar lined with a half dozen empty stools. Hidden further in the darkness were four or five ratty booths occupied by hard looking men and harder looking women. I knew right away that I need to mind my own business and be respectful. I was the visiting team and didn’t yet know the field.

I swung a leg over a stool, planted my ass on the surprisingly soft cushion, and waited for the bartender.

“Waddya have?” he asked.

In my snarkiest Brooklyn voice, I replied “A shot of gin. Gordon’s if you got it.”

I held my breath, one leg nervously twitching in anticipation of the barkeep’s request for an ID. But the request never came. Instead, he turned his back, reached for the Gordon’s, plunked a glass on the bar and filled it with a shot of that clear, juniper-flavored nectar which I immediately downed.

“Wanna run a tab or what?” He asked.

I screwed up my courage. “Leave the bottle, okay?” I had seen that in movies and always dreamed of saying it myself.

I detected a slight upward arch of his eyebrows and a rolling of his eyes. When I assured him I had enough cash, he shrugged his shoulders and that was that.

Somewhere after six or seven shots I stopped. I asked him – actually slurred, – how much I owed. He told me, I fished a wad of bills from my pocket and tossed them onto the counter. Apparently, enough.

I staggered to my dorm, catapulted into bed, and awoke the next morning clear headed and remembering everything. A miracle, I thought, but one I won’t try again.

Years later when the internet arrived, I looked her up. I found several women with the same name and almost gave up the search until one of the hits pierced my eyes like a pair of daggers. Her obituary.

Gay had passed a few years back, succumbing to cancer. The short listing mentioned two grown children but no husband. She had hurt me decades earlier. That didn’t matter now. Knowing she had died saddened me and generated a wave of nostalgia.

I opened the cupboard, found a fifth of gin – Gordon’s naturally – drank a shot in memory of the Good Time Girl and then put the bottle away.

A resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mark Fleisher has published three books of poetry – with some prose and photographs added. His work has appeared in numerous online and print anthologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Kenya. He earned a journalism degree from Ohio University and held reporting and editing positions with upstate New York newspapers. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Fleisher served in Vietnam as a combat news reporter and received a Bronze Star for Meritorious Service.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Don’t worry, Tommy, she’ll be back. Look out the window. Rain. See, she left her umbrella.

You’re doing fine. Being a dermatologist is great, but get off the technical stuff about Botox. She may have no interest. And even if she does, she doesn’t want you to know about it. Watch her. Did you see her lean back, look around, sip her drink?

Talk about her, about Kendra.

Whatever you do, don’t mention the funeral. I know this is awkward for you, but it’s been more than a year. You can do this.

Did you see her Lexus key chain? The ASPCA tag? Look, here she comes, just like I said. She’s looking at you right now. Don’t look at me! Pay attention to her. Let her set the pace.

I gotta go now. Taking my Gracie to dinner for our 26th. She said to give you a good luck smooch. How about a hug instead? Why don’t you call me when you can. Whenever is fine. Just call me.

You can loosen your tie, you know.


Jeff Santosuosso is a business consultant and award-winning poet living in Pensacola, FL. His chap book, “Body of Water,” is available through Clare Songbirds Publishing House. He is Editor-in-Chief of, an online journal of poetry and short prose. Jeff’s work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Comstock Review, San Pedro River Review, South Florida Poetry Journal, Mojave River Review, The Lake (UK), The Blue Nib, Red Fez, Texas Poetry Calendar, Avocet, and other online and print publications.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Harvest Day

Every Wednesday is

harvest day on our block.

After fighting through traffic

in the over populated streets,

parking by my building gets scarce

on Wednesday

because the garbage cans

are out on the curb

taking up the spots.

Once the sun goes down,

I can hear it: the squeak of the grocery-cart,

my recycle bin being opened,

and the bottles collected for scrap.

Clink, clink, smash!

Sometimes the glass and cans wake me.

I get up and look out the window.

I see the streetlights glow on the huddled flesh,

or the police lights down the block strobe that

sick glow on my walls.

It’s harvest time.

I think of all the bottles of beer from the week before

that have helped me get over my hard work, and helped me

live with myself as I pay for this room.

Toasts of joy, and hits of sorrow,

to feel something, or feel nothing at all.

Yet this is the best feeling: knowing that I am giving something back,

even if it’s just recycling bottles for a few bucks per pound.

Now some shadow person can get a meal, or just as likely more bottles,

or some powder stronger than what I know.

I’ve been a bum, well hipster-homeless.

I’ve played guitar on the corner for change.

I’ve slept in warehouses, and on scaffoldings in the rain.

But that was a long time ago.

Now I work at an office where no one has any idea who I was.

Sure, I live in a cheap room just above the curb, but

I play the game to stay in it… and I no longer need to bother

to recycle my own bottles for change anymore.

I can let them go

to the army in LA who rules the streets.

Every Wednesday is

harvest day on

our block.

Westley Heine is a writer and multimedia artist. He is known for his documentaries Poetry in Action and Trail of Quetzalcoatl, the latter of which has a companion book of poetry. Publications of his work have been in The Chicago Reader, Gravitas, Beatdom, Verse of Silence, Bleached Butterfly, and Wellington Street Review. His writing examines love, death, street life, class oppression, madness, and everything from the disturbing to metaphysical revelation. He grew up in Wisconsin, was educated in Chicago, and bummed from New York to Mexico to California. He now resides with his wife in Los Angeles.
Instagram: @westleyheine