Vending Machine Press Issue #15


Photo by: Johannes Huwe

The very fine writers for Issue 15 are:

and when i by Alison Leigh Znamierowski
All Types of Powerlessness by Ashlie Allen
Two Poems by Jenya Doudareva
Two Poems by Chloe Clark
Three Poems by Molly Kelley
Two Poems by Raphael Maurice
Toxic Shock by Alex Creece
No One Sees Until They’re Dead by Mary Julia Klimenko
Two Poems by Carla McGill
Pitiful by Jeffrey Zable

Struck Birds by Catharine Lucas

Click on submission tab for guidelines to submit for future issues.
Issue 16 is due out 2nd September 2016.

Michael Lafontaine
Vending Machine Press

and when i by Alison Leigh Znamierowski

when you left in summer
i watched moonlight fall
squarely onto your pillow
where your full-moon shoulder
once waxed and waned
with each breath beside me

when you left in autumn
i watched the trees
set themselves on fire in the name of
and winter expose
their wiry limbs

when you left in winter
i dragged my teeth across my lip
and skin stripped away like birch bark,
peeled away like the wallpaper
of a neglected home

and when i showed up for spring
i was all-raw and ready,
faded freckles waiting to forgive
the sun’s abandon

about the author:

Alison Znamierowski graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Sociology. She loves engaging with spontaneous impulses for adventure, wandering barefoot, and making people look at photos of her cat, Luna. Her writing has been published in HelloFlo, Loam Magazine, Shapes We MakeProud2BMeFeministing and I Am That GirlShe is currently living in Maine, exploring the worlds of expressive art and writing through volunteering at Spindleworks and The Telling Room.

All types of powerlessness by Ashlie Allen

I like when I get dizzy and feel like talking about my misery after drinking. I can admit I am suicidal and laugh about it. Sometimes I try to crawl, just to prove to myself I am helpless and cannot move properly. One night, after losing your tolerance for my poor behavior, you smacked me. The shadow of my hair tossing to the side looked like bat wings exploding.

“That’s okay.” I said. “I won’t recall your abuse in the morning, so I will not be smart enough to leave you.”

I’d be struck again until the alcohol taste in my mouth disappeared and my soul went to sleep. Maybe I like all types of powerlessness, even if it means someone I love serving it to me in cruel manners.

about the author:

Ashlie Allen writes fiction and poetry. She also enjoys photography. Her work has appeared in Juked, Cease Cows, Birds We Piled Loosely and others. She sometimes talks to ghosts when she’s bored, or to other scary creatures, including herself.

Two Poems by Jenya Doudareva

Music And Lyrics By

I was there I was there I was
There I was there I was there when

The clouds were melting icebergs
Leaking into the sky, gazed at
By a young boy born the same day
As I, who knew he was going to die. So he

Tentatively strummed that song where
Both music and lyrics were by
That traveller just passing by
Who correctly identified

That we were ever the dreamers,
Hoping to be remembered fresh,
Hoping to have the papers say:
Oh what a loss – so young, so dead!

We were ever the visionaries,
Anticipating what it’s like
To be right in the middle of
Mathematical infinity,

Anticipating that nowhere
Isn’t such a bad place after all,
That the swift rock-n-roll-like end
Of the known universe is fine

As long as we get to stay in
A cozy burnt-orange chair and
Fuzzy slippers, reminiscing…

I was there
Those were the days
All my lovers are gone now
But they weren’t my type anyway

The conclusion had a specific wavelength

captures eyes; they always wear
all-black everything. Words
that make your chest go ow
are still coming out of nowhere.

It was hard enough to change while
remaining exactly the same. Now

The dust settled at dawn. Then came the flies. Their
unremarkable wings matched our eyes –
veiny, translucent, fidgety. Such was the style,
just ask the tv.

We never thought there was a problem
especially when some nerd with a wrong colour palette
Insisted there was. Who could blame us?
And yet there it was – red – smelling like iron,
irresistible to insects.


jenya copy

about the author:

Jenya Doudareva loves precision. That fact has moulded her into an engineer and a poet. This is her second Vending Machine Press appearance. Her poems have also been featured in Clementine Poetry Journal, and her paper on algorithms for safe irradiation of brain tumours is available in an operations research journal somewhere. Jenya works in healthcare and is an editor for Weird Canada, a blog that celebrates DIY and grassroots Canadian art. She welcomes the robot apocalypse.

You can buy her poetry here.

Two Poems by Chloe Clark

All the Tea that My Creepy Heart Desires

Lapsang souchong, oolong,
or maybe pu-erh, tasting of hay, of smoke,
of the sun rising in pine forests, but I could be wrong

there was that time I awoke
in a room by a lake, far away from you,
and outside my window, the fog hung heavy as smoke

I drank tea to warm up, curled under a blanket or two
and I thought of writing you a letter
of putting in words everything I felt was true

I wondered if you ever thought “just forget her”
maybe as you drank a cup of Earl Grey,
but no, you always liked assam better

And I got so sad that I spent the day
not writing you a letter, steeping in memory
drinking cup after cup, thinking of what not to say

But I was wrong then, you called me up, said you missed me
and forgetting I wasn’t home, put water on for tea

The Other Side of This is Still Here

Thinking it will help, we take
the word down to its roots:
hope, the greatest good, we live
in the best
of all possible worlds, and good will

ultimately prevail. But in our minds
we think in statistics, in the nightmare
we had last night, in the reports read
in staccato voices, sounding of the mid-

dle of the country. We dream of the lake
we knew as children, the water so cold
that we thought we’d shiver right out
of our skin, and how we haven’t been
back there in years—always saying soon,

soon, next time, next year, next summer
and then we become unsure if we even
remember the sound of the waves right
but we still have that “soon” in our mouths

soonsoonsoonsoonsoonsoon. We talk
ourselves out of so many things: the hopes
we kept as children, the thoughts we have
upon waking, but in there we sometimes
remember a voice and we want to yell

we are here, we are listening, we are hoping
for words. Tell us that there is
something, tell us that there is some—

one and still I want to tell you that optimism
is waking up and realizing that you
are somewhere near.


about the author:

Chloe N. Clark holds an MFA in Creative Writing & Environment. Her work appears in Apex, Bartleby Snopes, Hobart, Midwestern Gothic, a previous issue of Vending Machine, and more. She can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes

Three Poems by Molly Kelley

A Quality Skull

I have a quality skull.
I could find it in the dark.
Stripped of its skin.
I could hook my finger through the eye socket and know.
Non-plastic, insoluble.
I got this. It’s mine, but I could find yours too.

A Memory

Digging through my memory.
Unearthing the crypt.
In my infancy, this is where I stored controversy.
Now, it’s the architecture of my time here.
The composition seems different.
A shadow creeps down the landscape, and I know it’s free.

A Pine Bassinet

My mom had a pine bassinet upstairs.
I bit the rails to see if I could leave an impression.
It floods in Iowa.
Her baby doll stared straight up, lifeless.
A gash in the porcelain.
A moldy smudge but no voice.

My HeadAbout the author:

Molly Kelley lives in Iowa City, Iowa, where she studies Rudolf Diesel.  She is the living expression of her father’s Geist and a constant source of disappointment to her mother.  Forthcoming work to appear in Donut Factory.

Two Poems by Raphael Maurice


This is the hard land of miracles.
Land of arias over the fields,
land of music made by the god
at morning. Land of nerves,
land of the timpani-heart, savage, struck
by the hands of the blind.
This is the land of lint & Lee jeans,
pockets outturned, begging like dogs.
This is the land of bales, of the final storm
that bares open the earth, does violence,
and, in turn, is spat upon by its own children.
This is the land of early, eager kisses.
This is the overturned log – it too, part of the land –
where she offered herself
leaving chicken scratches on your heart,
the log of days & nights, the map of the rudderless
& hell-bent. This is the land of celebrations,
one boy in a party hat blowing a red kazoo.
This is the land of basement homes
where the owners fail, year after year,
to come out into the sun. This is the lonely land,
land of eminent domain, land of the open palm.
This is the land of the greeter in her wheelchair,
welcoming you to another land, fluorescent,
on the fritz, the new land of the mentholated voice,
hoarse & bitten by the Crab.
This is the land of forgiveness,
the land of good horses grown wild from neglect,
the paralytic forgives them, & so have I.
This is the land where our visions go bucking,
land of stirring and beginnings, land of the sunset.
This is the land of justice,
though no land is. This is the land of sincerity & toothache,
old eyes searching for a daughter,
noses rubbed clean off at the bar.
This is the land of ditches, land of the dogs’ grave,
land from which you can never go back,
return, land of the pillow that hits the hay,
of lightning that can never go home,
land of the bleak snow, of waiting at the door
with presents but never knocking. This is the place
we were ashamed of, that seems now like so many others,
its size & scale reliant on the mind’s weather,
land of the unmapped, land of my dreams.


My father & I walked across the dead
land of trees & scrub, land of flat stones taking their fair
due of sunlight, rain, each ghost a neighbor in the breeze,
a ghost signaling from a tree’s crotch. The canopy of jeweled leaves
shivered in winds that rattled at my heart.
Somewhere, like nowhere. A copperhead struck out at him
from beneath its rock. He raised the knife, & with a steel-toed boot,
trapped it beneath his sole, inching nearer to the crown.
As it hissed, he hacked the gasping head until it came loose, fell.
In winds that rattled through my heart, it lay forked, still.
We went on, said nothing. Nowhere. Dropping a sandstone over it,
he threw dirt onto its grave, & scored
the earth with the viperish teeth of the survival knife.
This was the spot near creek beds where I’d cried out
to a sapling ended young with my own knife, my own hands.
I’d knelt before it – a history here – I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
When my brother came in drunk
again, they went at each other in terrible gusts
& fists that rained against their bodies, faces,
the front door ruined, my mother looking out, the window
cracked near a cedar Christmas tree. The snow’s silence
crept into the night as she silently rectified the mess.
Nothing was said, like a great, dead pause in music—
that space where we wait for a god or language
to explain how we wound up as we are, here, right here.

about the author:


Raphael Maurice is a poet, translator and writer.  He lives near in a small town where the Missouri River keeps its secrets.

Toxic Shock by Alex Creece

First Aid 1.01: do not remove an embedded object yourself.

Even after the obligatory hospital visit, I was never fully cleansed of each person I had loved.

Some were ticks; their heads burrowed deeply into my skin, reaching to guzzle at an already depleted bloodstream. Others were like a foreign object left by a careless surgeon; a sloppy, insidious remnant of cosmetic fallacy.

I was sickly and sour with lemon-fresh swabs and Lyme disease. With each love lost, their slow-release toxin would annex its territory within my flesh, blotching my skin with a dappled necrosis.

I was not my own.

about the author:

Alex Creece enjoys building Lego monstrosities and going on adventures with a dog named Danzig. She functions on a highly-concentrated fuel of defeat and determination. Some of her role models include the deep-space heroine Nichelle Nichols, the fiendish fossil Skeletor, and the automaton extraordinaire Cody Drew. Sometimes she shares goofy-sounding words and/or wisecracks at

No One Sees Until They’re Dead by Mary Julia Klimenko

Take me back to Italy where you threw my suitcase out of the third story window at midnight, and I screamed, “Fuck you.” and ran downstairs and sat on my suitcase in the middle of the cobblestone street thinking about why there weren’t any fucking taxis in Cararra until a scorpion began a steady crawl toward me, and I ran back upstairs dragging my suitcase behind me and made up with you because I wanted to get back into your bed, not because I loved you but because I loved you more than the scorpion on the street.

I wrote poems, hundreds, thousands, about you, to you, for you. I watched your hands use the axe to make her shoulders smaller, put big white squares of paper on the floor to paint her, the woman you loved, to scoop up handfuls of wet plaster and press it between her legs, firmly moving your hand up to her belly. We lived in Borges’ aleph where music and poetry kept the world on the other side of the door.

That was the story of our lives.

We fell into each other breathless and on fire, rather you laid me across your painting and neither of us cared if it was dry. You said I was awkward in a way that fascinated you and painted me in soft water colors and deep oil colors and sculpted me without ever giving me a face, my hands at my sides, collarbones prominent or disappearing into a wall or balancing on my feet and hands or some other impossible pose and you called me impossible and I called you mean and you touched me and told me to come to you and I touched you and breathed into the small space between your throat and shoulder.

I loved you and you didn’t love me. You loved me and I didn’t love you. We loved each other and then neither of us loved the other. We knew it would never end. We left the real world behind for the unnamed place, no road signs or cities, just the color of the air in the studio, amber. We lived in poems, plaster, paintings, sculptures, music, each other, feeling, not naming or discussing or figuring anything out, day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, we gave ourselves to the unnamable, indefinable until you didn’t know me anymore.

I saw the look, the light gone from your eyes; I was the mirror the axe shattered. I didn’t know where you were or how you could have gone away. Mi vida, you were everything, every kiss, every touch, every midnight. With you gone, I never existed. Don’t leave me here without you who taught me how to walk without shoes, fly without wings, dance without permission, to love until my heart ached and then to love you even more. This song is a slow, sad surrender.

No one sees until they are dead.

about the author:


Mary Julia Klimenko obtained her BA & MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University where she taught Creative Writing for two years before returning to school to get a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. She divides her time between her private psychotherapy practice and writing. She has a chapbook published by Spire Press, Source Vein, is published in numerous literary journals and has three limited edition books in print in collaboration with artist Manuel Neri. She has been his primary model and collaborator for the past four decades.

Two Poems by Carla McGill



This time I leave the circling
freeways of Los Angeles,
head the other way
toward the burnt land of Arizona,
the bare and intentional road
straightening out into the desert.

Space leads to more space
and it is time for new thoughts.
Parched lands harden into multiplying horizons.
Saluting cactus plants, shriveled snake skins;
beneath the desolation
essences brood.

The air changes to gold, to red,
threatens to ignite,
boundaries dissolve into vapors.
I have come across perplexities,
and found that mysteries
can sometimes be opened.

Desert questions.
One answer is, the parched land lives.
Unwashed, the scorched miles
are not forsaken. Hidden there,
thirst, and in the thirst,
the memory of rain.


Stretch of blue, bleached,
above the hawk. Just under
the plane, crossing canyons
in deliberate course, the red
and gold of Indian blankets.

To the right, bronze hills,
cows swatting chaotic flies.
To the left, a train.
The plane is headed west
out over the Pacific. Plow
to market, well to faucet,
pow-wow to conference
encompassed in sparkle
of glass. How far is it
to the place we try to find?

The exit and eventually the ocean.
Park, step out, breathe.
Breezes sweep against me like mysteries,
the sand a primitive emanation of tan.

And then, traces of original hope,
something important and wise,
shining through the clouds.
Here it is, the end of the western dream,
a liquid sapphire, an immense bowl
of creation. The plane has disappeared
and the hawk. I am in a dream of blue.



about the author:

I earned my B.A. in English from California State University, San Bernardino, and my M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. My work has been published in A Clean Well-Lighted Place, Shark Reef, Crack the Spine, Westview, Common Ground Review and Inland Empire Magazine. I have work forthcoming in Caveat Lector. As a member of the Poetry Society of the Huntington Library from 1991–2012, my poems have appeared in three of the group’s chapbooks: Garden Lyrics, Huntington Lyrics, and California Lyrics. I write poetry, fiction, and am working on a novel and stage play.

Pitiful by Jeffrey Zable

Driving home in a cold, pouring rain I spot this guy
limping along in the street completely barefoot,
wearing only a t-shirt with pants hanging halfway down
his behind.

Thinking this one of the more pitiful sights I’ve seen lately
I stop my car, reach in my wallet, pull out a five-dollar bill
and ask my wife to give it to him.

Standing in front of him holding her umbrella she hands him
the bill and he holds it in his hands just staring at it.

“What did he say?” I ask, and she answers, “I don’t believe it!”

Driving onward, I’m hoping he believes it enough to put
the soaked bill in his pocket and is able to at least get some food
before the bill is so washed out that no one will take it. . .

Photo of Jeffrey Zable(2)

about the author:

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro Cuban folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s published five chapbooks, including Zable’s Fables with an introduction by the late, great Beat poet Harold Norse. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in hundreds of literary journals and anthologies. Recent, or upcoming writing in Serving House Journal, Mas Tequila, Dead King, Corvus, Flint Hills Review, DogPlotz, Ink In Thirds, 2015 Rhysling Anthology, Houseboat (featured poet)Beachwood Review, Futures Trading, Unscooped Bagel, Mocking Heart Magazine, Chrome Baby and many others.

Struck Birds by Catharine Lucas

San Gregorio State Beach, California

Tide-packed sands; cliffscapes, buff and russet. One bleached rock thrust skyward, its sharp-edged gleam startling a blue so deep it fights the gaze. Far above, two gulls flying squadron repeat the trick, finite white making infinite blue—advertising their importance to the universe. At my feet lies one of their own, wings spread in crucifix. A coil of ruby ribbon teased from the gut gleams on pristine breast. The scene is fresh, a surgery interrupted. Feast or sacrifice, the stuff of gospel. Meant.

Not so, death on tarmac. The overpass off 580 draws nesting pigeons, ash gray, unlit. They drop to graze the road. Some are crushed, standing, others struck in flight—windshield, grill, bumper. I stop beside a dark smear. It reads like poems I’ve seen, wall-to-wall blocks of text; the eye makes of these a single blur in passing.

I balk at reading them, these struck birds, glued where they fell, nothing to suggest intent. They evoke reportorial prose suited to accidents and allowing some possible fault in the pigeons. I borrow the tone, considering certain deaths that fail to startle, being dark on dark, as news goes.

Hard to convey the brightness lost.


about the author:

As a child in North Carolina, I wrote poems about winter sunsets, a lost dog, my first bike; now I write from the northern California coast, about offshore rocks, lovers lost and found, the hauntings of earthquake and drought that lie in wait through our year-round balmy season. This writer’s life is fed by friends, books, movies, plays, concerts. And by gardening, hiking, singing, watching things. Engaging in troubled times, I edit for a climate change activist, manage care for an indigent elder, and offer spiritual counsel for friends in crisis. My adult son blesses my life as a fellow seeker. I practice Buddhism at Berkeley Zen Center.