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The Spoken Word

March - #2



       Jonah Howell


 Jonah Howell



After Tom Tom crossed the beach

to ask my friends and I for wine

his question filled my mind for hours

as things do, and circled

as things do, and expanded tenfold

as things do. I saw him, I swear I did,

the past Tom Tom wriggling into shape

in the sand grains

as I looked down at my toes, stretching.


His landscape took over the sandscape:

Pacific Boulevard sprouted

on the strand, dunes-buildings,

and Tom Tom strutting along,

flat-bill cocked up, whistling a

whispery tune and twirling

around streetlamps with

not a rain cloud for miles,

licking up the sea breeze,

at ease and chillin’ hard.



Tom Tom was walking down Pacific, right,

and he was super baked, right,

so he had his eyes closed

and he thought he smelled this fish market

over to the left, right,

and he took a big whiff


and said,

“Top o’ the mornin’, ladies,”

‘cause Afroman’s Crazy Rap had been

running through his head for hours,

right? But no response.

He opened his eyes

to a 7-11, not a fish market in sight,

and he realized:

This whole city smells like a fish market.

I must be really high.



So just after sundown in this

small beach town, Tom Tom

went to browse around for

some cheap wine

to pour into his down time:

Still a few hours

‘til the dead-head crowd would hit the beach

and bring him some prospective clients.


So he walked in, whistling away,

halfway present, floating really,

and the 7-11 clerk stood up and said,

“Hello sir, you can’t come in here

without a shirt or shoes on. Sorry,

sir.” Tom Tom, still half-present,

still halfway whistling through a

halfway grin, told him,

“Don’t worry ‘bout it, good sir.

I’m just popping in for a wine,

my fine sir, nothing to fret

yourself over right here.” And

he winked and he bounced

to the fridge in the back.


(Now he thought it,

he hadn’t thought a bit about

his minimalistic fashion.

No, he’d just bopped out the house

and whistled his way to warmth,

as one does in the coastal Virginia autumn.)


This clerk was having none of it.

“Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to leave.

Sorry, sir.” Bold the “S” in “Sorry”

to denote at once the greatest

sincerity and insincerity. Still

Tom Tom floated up the aisle,

whipped out a bottle,

sniffed it with a flourish

with the cork still on,

hand on a hip and

swilling it. “Hm. Nice, nice…”


 “Sir, please leave, sir.”

Such politeness! Tom Tom was certain

the clerk had not a problem with him,

just giving lip service to policy,

right. So he

trip tropped up the aisle

as a Tom Tom does and

twirled with his wine and then

hopped in the check-out line,

smiling a wide one to the

utterly pissed clerk.




“But wait, my good man,

I’m on my way out.

I’ll pay for this wine—“

He pulled out his $4.36—

“then jump out lickety-split.



“Put up the wine and leave,

sir.” The two other customers—

a woman, age thirty

but looking forty what with

the occasional crack,

not-so-occasional cig,

 Ed Werstein


Almost Beautiful Charlene


drank every Friday:


Heaved it jumping,

kicking, lurching;

messy, nasty olfactorous


Quite rank stuff;

the ultimate vomit,

with exquisite yellow



Flight 300, KC to MKE, Row 23


To my left, in seat F, by the window

a man in an old-time Brewers cap

sits hunched over a Sudoku magazine

tray table down. Nothing but his pencil

has moved for twenty minutes.

He backs it into his mouth once

in a while and bites down on it

while he thinks.

To my right, in seat D, on the aisle

a young woman in a Marquette sweatshirt

earbuds in, shuffles

through her iTunes

sampling one song after the other.

I’m between them in seat E

elbows drawn in tight, thumbs holding

open an anthology of poems

some puzzling

some musical.


Some Poetry

           all they want to do
           is tie the poem to a chair with rope
           and torture a confession out of it.

                                       –Billy Collins, Introduction to Poetry


Some poetry

even you, Billy, might torture

trying to decode, discover

some reason for its being.


Some sounds hide no secrets,
some dance in masks:


…a silhouette of Magda prances,

pirouettes in Baghdad, and chances are…


Some words sit on fences,

some ride on nuances:


…we’re mourning this morning where

workers once were pouring corning ware,

but pour no more…


No more!


Strap it in a chair,

attach the electrodes,

the electricity courses

but it’s protecting its sources

till the shocking end.

~ Ed Werstein, Milwaukee, WI, a regional VP of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets,  has poems published by Stoneboat, Blue Collar Review, Verse Wisconsin, Gyroscope Review, and others. His chapbook, Who Are We Then?, was published by Partisan Press. A full-length collection, A Tar Pit to Dye In, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Ed won the Poetry Society of Michigan’s Margo Lagattuta award, 2015.


March 2018

      Elizabeth Beck

       Ed Werstein


February 2018

      Victoria Anne Williams

       Jonathan Travelstead

       Marilyn Zelke Windaw


August 2017

      Jocelyn Moore

      Al Simmons

      Michael Lee Johnson


July 2017


       Dan Abernathy

       Jocelyn Moore

       Dr. Blaise Allen

       Tim Kahl


June, 2017


              Dan Abernathy

              Carman Hittle

              Mya Swain

              Jocelyn Moore


April 2017


              Todd Moore

              Dan Abernathy

              Donal Mahoney

              A.D. Whans


March 2017


             Dan Abernathy

              Katie Ernst

              Jocelyn Moore

              Shayla Peredies


February 2017


              Dan Abernathy

              Katie Ernst

              Bonnie McDonnall

~ Elizabeth Beck is a writer, artist and teacher who lives with her family on a pond in Lexington, Kentucky. Author of two books of poetry, she is also the founder of The Teen Howl Poetry Series that serves the youth of central Kentucky. To learn more about Elizabeth, please visit:

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Contributing to the Chaos is seeking well-crafted poems, three poems per submission. Include poets name, location, where to be followed on the web. Expect a semi-timely response. We publish poetry on a weekly basis.  As of now, the Contributing to the Chaos cannot pay for poetry, but poetry and links will be kept live on the website.  Email them with subject title, Poetry Submission – Your Name, to


What we like:

Contributing to the Chaos and its readers like travelers, vagabonds and gypsies of all shapes and sizes, especially those with a sense of bohemian vagrancy of dark, jovial and yet humble, the ones that are electrified to be known as an outlaw poet. Beatnik type poems with a little sparkle and a lot more grime that would make Boroughs, Bukowski and Brautigan take note.  Above all we are a kind bunch that care for nature and the natural way of being while seeking a hedonistic way and we love to laugh. If you fit into this wide range of anti-conformity and can contribute, or just have something that totally doesn’t fit into any category but you want us to read, please send them in.


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