Jacob Laba is a writer and poet from El Cerrito, California (USA). He has been
published in Rain Taxi, Divot, Psychedelic Press, and elsewhere; he is also
forthcoming in a few journals, such as Poetry Northwest and Whale Road Review.

The Cycle of Life

There is a mostly-dead forest that prizes its tall, lean man. His head is a dint, or a cap. From neck to stomach is about a string's width. He scares off as much as he eats.

When the nearby town passes by, they try to circumvent the lean man. They endeavor to paint their whole camo, skinny-dip in sap and bark. Suckle on horse lips too, feed them their apple tart and teat.

Giving up their red filling and milk is good because they're prey. Normal. Or at least they're prey now. They screech and run and bleed like prey. They scratch their armpits and oo-oo-aa-aa like prey. When the man's ears uncork, they pinch the trees' lips closed—and wait, patient, for wind to make screams.

Despite their attempts to hide the man notices them. They stick out as much as anything else does. He notices anything else and he doesn't care much, appreciates their company. So when they quiet, he wishes they'd stop deprecating it.

So he tips his weird head like a hat. It looks like a butterfly's posterior. He finds it a seductive, welcoming gesture, but sets out a tarp to make sure.

Shocked, the town falls from the canopy and dies. The man cries, then sets them aside for later.


Scene of the crime: a man's pinkie, found dead in a chain-link fence. The man is nowhere to be found but nearby there is a woman whose hands are on her hips. The police say Get on the ground but she stands stock-still, elbow-winged. The police sigh and try to lock her up. But when they lunge at her she dodges, they fumble, and they accidentally lock with her—linked, arm-in-arm. At first they were in charge and now she is. They can't move unless she does, or cry or shoot or fly. They ask for a lawyer. The lawyer laughs and curses and says no. So they frolic together and sign hymns, and when they reach the prison, she lets them run free in a cell.

On The Other Side
After Ethridge Knight

Sound in the air: caroms and bomb stints. Jazz in late-night windowsills, rockabye rain. The piano girl runs down slats. Her eyes are plums dropped mid-season. Her mouth is cig-dry. Tongues roll in habit, call out a one two three four! and noses dive below, ears above. Fingers rat on tables; tables whisper back secrets. Teeth chatter with bass and loss. Feet, with the ground, louses and fink and hard-boiled dirt. Strange friendships are made to the tune of a night, unmade by daybreak. The piano girl bows to broken harmony, or the other way around, and tiptoes round her smoke to night's tunnel. On the other side, they reappear unseen, half-asleep and weeping. They don't say goodbye.

but crows, who once told me, don't you eyeball me

so I redden my bloodlines. While the crows' toes are caught on cacti we dance and dance. My sis sings power lines; a mother drinks. My dad croaks with the alligators. The cup of coffee domed with a large bubble resembles a potted cactus. It has spikes as black as crow-feet. When I drink it, spice hums my throat. I'm calm. Then my eyes crack and redden with the tep of crow-heads on windowsills. I don't notice my anger until I see it on the floor. My eyes, like too-clean-shaven grapes. Behind them are floorboard lines like wrinkles. They're senile eyes now. They look at me, grow tented eyebrows that hover an inch above. When we go hunting the eyebrows depress further. They're triangles that miss a side. My dad compensates and wears the angles like hats, happy hats. Then they fly away. After, we sneak into family therapy. We sit in silence after my eyes pop like an egg, watery white spills from black buttons, and nobody's around to see the miracle.

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