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a broken piece of metal

it’s the biggest screwdriver I have
among my tools
but for some reason
(& it must have been a dream)
I used it to try to kill someone
– was it you?
but it hit something hard
and shattered

I look at it in bewilderment
it was my biggest screwdriver
but now in my hand
it’s a broken piece of metal
on a yellow handle

— offbeatjim wittenberg


Sorry. Once the ride begins, I’m afraid you can’t get off….


His Real Doll
By Roberta Lawson

A Tuesday afternoon in February.

I am early. I exist in late or early, never neat enough or concerned enough to hit squarely on time.

I think that was why you first gave me the spare key: that I wouldn’t be forever left scuffing my feet outside; that you wouldn’t be forever stuck waiting at home for my arrival.

It is cold, rattling cold. Thick grey-white wind blowing.

I turn the key in the Yale lock on your white front door, idly fantasising about central heating, your cat purring in my lap, steam rising off your red teapot.

Once I am inside, it feels as if every window in the flat has been left open since November.

I grit my teeth, hissing out little sounds of frustration at you, you who is not here. I am stepping harder than usual, stomping. I keep my boots on.

I walk to your bedroom first, craving the warmth of bedrooms themselves, of thick duvet blanket. I need something to lull me.

I start, doubling back as I move to open the bedroom door.

Shut the windows first, bimbo.

Pace around, slamming them, quick as I can: hallway, kitchen, living room. Crank the central heating up. Gloves off, gloves right back on.

Your bedroom. The door is stiff, sticking in its frame. It never usually does that. As if the door itself imagines it has been rained on, warped in this gusty freeze.

Not-rightness settles over me like an awkward shadow.

I hit the light switch, making a beeline for the window. It is cheerfully splayed in its frame: a toothless mouth, gaping obscenity.

Light brightens the room from its late afternoon pallor. I am about to bend over the bed to shove the window shut.

Right about to do that.

Then I notice her.


I stop still as a waxwork and a series of trembles courses, disgusting, through me.

You know how a chicken looks, pimpled gooseflesh, sickly white, as you lay it out all trussed up for cooking?

You know how any living thing must look as it crosses from something living into the repose of death? Glaze settling on it like grease. Eyes unfocusing as if relinquishing the effort of life.

She is a piece of raw poultry.

Accidentally seeing her is the sensation of touching something disgusting. Like skin falling away beneath one’s fingers.
A slab of flesh laid out.

She makes your unassuming flat a mausoleum, your bed a crematorium trolley. I stand and I stare, helplessly captivated.

And a clammy flush itches on my skin, sweaty insects crawling down my forehead.

I stumble on the sunny yellow carpet. I am seasick.

She is looking at me. Not looking at me. Her eyes are wide open. They are not looking anywhere. I can smell decaying roses. Vomit rises in my throat. A pain in my head like dull metal slapping inside of it.

My legs buckle, and I stumble forward, my hand brushing hers. Vomit surges into my mouth.
Her nails are long and sharpened. After your heart stops, after your organs cease functions, your hair and nails continue to grow.

I crash to my knees, bile tumbling from deep in my guts, spilling all over the soft carpeting. I am made of bone, each comforting inch of flesh and skin has deserted me.

She lets out a sound; a lazy intake of waking breath. Leans forward on her elbow , props her chin on her cupped palm, idly regarding me from her glass eye. Supplicatory, I stare, nauseated nightmares shuddering through me. Slowly, she lifts her head. Her cold hand reaches forward and caresses my muggy cheek.




Blink; the eye opens.
Black flows through skins of rust.
Skulls cave through empty eyes; Vultures.
We circle over scarred fields.
Criminals carve scars with rakes.
Death comes; a mess of carcasses needs cleaning.

A mess of black falls.
See how sin blinks crime, how it inhales?
Criminals in cotton claw at dead blood, digging.
Rust remains as sin.
Scars flow through fields, unforgiving.
Vultures with robes and scythes are we; waiting.

Haunt like vultures.
A mess of carcasses waits.
Fields of angels drip from dirty pores; penance.
They blink black tears.
Unrepentant rust thriving,
Criminal thoughts. They claw earthly graves.

Criminals scream.
Vultures prey. Scythes crop
The flesh of sin, the heart of rust.
Mess of souls fall
Deep. The Dead do not blink.
Carcasses on the field need cleaning.

Field’s scars close.
Leaving criminal flesh
On hard soil. Dead bodies do not blink.
Vultures descend.
Our mess of robes rise.
Redemption of rust; rebellion is dust.

Rust is dust.
Bones lie in the field’s scars.
Our mess is now clean.
Hands washed of criminal deeds.
Vultures in angel white.
Blink; eye closes.

A blink of rust casts a mess on fields of folly.
Dark angels vulture upon criminals and pay their due.

—Jodi MacArthur



Threshold Birth
by Richard Godwin

Her words lacerated his soul and she spoke them softly, like some nocturnal seduction.

They held the air before her like a barbed wire fence and he reached through the rusting metal to touch her face.

They sat at the small table in the rain, unwashed by it since theirs were troubles no skyfall could cleanse.

“I’m not going back,” he said.

“They’ll do everything to find us.”

“I spat their pills out.”

“And they didn’t know?”

“They don’t know anything. How many inmates of bins do you think are really mad, or is madness a crossing over, a knowlege of something else, something psychiatrists can’t control, all those little men trying to gain power over the sick and the afflicted. The people there had seen things.”

“Sure. Those doctors in their white coats, can’t get any sexual release, can’t fuck, they need to get it somehow, need to feel like men.”

“There are shadows and strange shapes in those sterile corridors. Do you know what you’re dealing with here?”

“I know what I feel when you enter me.”

“It’s thresholds. Going into you and your yielding and what it summons from your knowing and through the walls they dance and gesture like guests someone else invited but not you, the medics knowing nothing, themselves lost in the thresholds of their world like ciphers in some strange language they can’t read but the lunatics understand, they have gone somewhere else and they see the lies that poison every waking conversation between here and reproduction.”

“How are you going to deal with them if they catch you?”

“In those rooms where they numb the brains of their patients something else is living, some vision, some shadow of all the beings brought there and tranced by drugs.”

“We need to get away from here, the law is on their side.”

“What are they going to do?”

“Take you back and inject you with oblivion.”

The waiter came out and he saw it in his eyes saw the knowing and he went to pay the bill.

She sat there looking at the horizon where a blue sky drifted into a bleeding sun that sank and filled the air with the slow chill of a coming evening.

Inside he saw the paper open on the counter and the waiter’s back through the half open doorway.

“Dangerous psychotic patient escapes” next to a picture of him.

He looked at it and knew it was not him, but some likeness they had invented to steal his identity.

Through the doorway he walked without noise and pulled the waiter’s head back so that his skin stretched tight as silk and ran the edge of his sharpened blade across the skin, sending a shower of blood out that sprayed the white wall and he held him there as he twitched and was still in some final agony and he waited for stillness to reign until the blood ceased flowing and he thought how close death and the joining of two bodies were, how the exchange of fluids lay in some tidal ocean we seek through life. Then he left that place.

She went with him and they travelled until they came to an abandoned house whose rooms had been scorched by some fire that had burned there and he entered it with her and they lay down and he held her while they merged into the threshold of the watchful night and he summoned her forth.

“And so I am your bride,” she said.

“We lie among the burned and they will find only ashes when they seek us.”

The cars that sped through the empty countryside did not find them nor know where to seek the travellers.

She left with him in the knowledge of what it was she bore from his gifting and they found the corner of land at the crest of the hill and they spotted the farmhouse.

The doctors could not find him, nor the police, for they did not know what they were looking for.

And in the silent corridors some form walked and made their nightmares a reality.

The inmates could not be controlled.

A nurse was killed with a nail.

Their diagnoses revealed that they themselves were delusional.

All their labels failed to stick.

When the baby was born on the farm she looked into his eyes and recognised what it was she had brought forth. He played in the threshold of the house.

And loved him she did. And let him eat from her heart and wounding in the strange feast of her motherhood.



Bonne anneé

Bonne anneé

I am


—Mary Mills


by Len Kuntz

Mother tested me.

She placed knives on the furniture, the shelves, in cupboards, near the tub. She wanted to see who I would use them on, myself or her.

She took in orphans. There were no agencies involved, only cash money. Two of the children were mine to look after. Mother kept them locked up in the basement. It smelled briny, like pickles and piss, and their eyes flicked at me in the dark, nervous owls, and though they were kept chained to a wall shivers never ceased to fuse my spine and dry socket my mouth.

Mother called them Girl and Boy, so I did as well. She said to kill them if they tried to escape. She said to make a bloody mess of them.

After awhile, they stopped speaking. It required too much energy. Their faces grew flat and long and greenish, the color of bruises and bad tomatoes. They answered with grunts or moans. Their ribs looked like drumsticks beneath the rags that were their clothes.

I had questions, of course I did.

Why so mean, Mother? I wanted to ask. Why so evil?

She read my mind. Her hand was a flash of heat striking out cobra quick. My skin stung, my nose ran a shock of red rain across my skirt, blood as cheap as store bought paint. “You’ll see,” she said.

I had other questions, for instance, why was I starting to enjoy this? How was that possible?

Was I homeschooled? You might say. Where were my friends? Indeed, where was the sunlight? Mother kept the blinds drawn. I learned to see without the use of my eyes.

Mother warned me about the world. “Just look no further than those rats,” she said about our two captives. “That’s what happens when you live outside of yourself. Even the prophets say so.”

When I visited Boy and Girl I took to baring my teeth, making them bucked and folding my hands as if they were paws. I made scurrying rat sounds and scuttled air between my teeth—“ssttk-ssttk-ssttk-ssttk.” To me it was funny and tragic, a sort of forbidden orgasm.

When I brought the soup bucket downstairs one night the last of Girl’s teeth had come loose and she sat there with them rattling hollow in a shoe box. I was beginning to get the picture.

I snuck out the following evening just to know, to be sure, to learn. I walked sidewalks and cul-de-sacs. Dogs and cats fled from me. The wind cried murder. No birds existed. The moon had started to wither and disintegrate, weak leper moon.

What I saw out there despised me, so I hissed and hated it right back.

I tried to slip inside the house unseen but Mother was sitting in the big chair with the stained doilies covering it and she said, “Come here and get your medicine. You didn’t listen, you arrogant little scab,” and before I’d made it across the room the leather strap whipped my forehead and then again, and then my neck and upraised hands and arms. The pain felt similar to being molested by a bawdy band of crows.

When she finished, Mother could hardly speak, she was so startled and thrilled and out of breath.

“Well?” she said.

More answer was sure, crisp. I said, “We need more children.”

She ran through my eyes, inspecting for truth, but I meant it. Of course I did. Mother’s blood ran through mine. Our lust shared hereditary.

Besides, this was just beginning to get fun.




Maggots suckle blood from sloth
even the below zero temperatures
won’t stop the flies gathering.

And I swat and swat

The thin air hangs desecrated
its purpose condemnation
its wind of violence eruption

Begs I go down screaming

no mercy, mercy me.

Sun melts the hills of eyes
drawn to the stone; the tale
of many crucibles.

And I have fought this death knell
more time, as its tick, tock, tick, tock
announces our herald of death.


I whine like banshee on horizon
till a pumped up moon hears my call.

This pigs fat floats near swollen
throat, drowns my resolve

I fall
into the yellow belly of mans slaughter
sliced from the cutlet
into another
annihilated decade.
While mercury gladly dances
upon my grave.

—Maria Gornell



by Lynn Alexander

There was something luminous about her in those last three days, the finality of her decision had released an inner tension that had long been taut. She was more animated, engaged, her eyes opened wide and her whole face seemed overtaken, newly pressed to perception. Her voice carried words with new clarity, they were pushed to new volume, and she no longer spoke with any hesitation or uncertainty.

He noticed these things about her, they enhanced her appeal.

In fact, the day she did it–he had her body on his mind when he came home and went into their room. She wasn’t dead yet, and he had undressed. He had taken the sheet off of her body and pulled her legs apart. They felt heavy, she remained unresponsive while he touched her.

Under her eyelids, her mind was slowing down, emergent black and snuffed to silence like the atmosphere after a storm. Soon the electricity was gone. He didn’t know it at the time, but she was gone, she had always been going, it was just a matter of when and with whom.



Death came

From the winds of change
death came
so quickly
so elegantly
so gentle and quiet
no one would have known
if it weren’t for the corpse
hanging in the bedroom

—Lena Vanelslander



Produced by Walter Conley and Paul Dutra.

* * *

Photo #1 by Bailey Elizabeth: Miss Deathwish @

Photos #2,5 and 7 by Sarah R. Bloom: Sad and Beautiful World

Photos #3,6 and 8 by Brooke Shaden: Shaden Productions

Photo #4 by Paul Dutra

Photo #9 by Kimberley Joanne Sinclair: xkimjoanne @ deviantArt

* * *

Be sure to check out QUILLS OF FIRE, a book of poetry by Marilyn Campiz and Lena Vanelslander. Find out more @ goodreads.

* * *

All material copyright2010 by respective creators.



  1. this issue brought tears to my eyes… the writing is superlative, the photos grab you by the soul–the end result is jaw dropping.

    never, ever a misstep in the writing, the art work; the blending of the two. walter, it gets better and better and better.

  2. jim – harsh, stark and brash.

    roberta – very rightness delivery.

    jodi – now i know whatcha been doing in that cave. creating coolness.

    richard – eerie & vibrant.

    mary – sharply pointed.

    len – mom’s a meanie, tale had me walking down an endless black hall. cool and creeped out.

    maria – 1st line is killer. i was numb the whole way through.

    lynn – you need to pub more. this piece is why. compelling.

    lena – 8 lines of wow.

    photos – totally SLAM all of ’em.

    walt & paul – great picks and design.

    quite a place here.

  3. Walter,
    It really is an honor to be in here, I feel like I am among friends. I think you and Paul are doing a great thing.

  4. Particularly fabulous issue! I love how macabre this one is.
    The third photo (Brooke Shaden’s) is especially wonderful.

    It all hangs together seamlessly.

  5. I’m in love, especially with Maria Gornell’s work.

  6. JODI. Holy shit. You are one hellava poet.

  7. great. outstanding issue. the writing is can’t be praised highly enough. thank you for including my poem.

  8. Amazing writers offer their hearts and darkest thoughts. Fantastic Issue. I thought Roberta’s fiction was exceptional – I need to read more of her work. I also thought Lena Vanelslander poem was especially clever and chilling. Jim’s piece was disturbing and a PERFECT opening.

    I loved all the writing.

    The photo with the little girl climbing the wall totally freaked me out. Great photography as always.

    Walter’s choreography with every issue of disenthralled just amazes me.

    Just excellent.

  9. ps.
    Thanks Carrie! ;D

    • lenavanelslander
    • Posted February 15, 2010 at 6:10 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Michael, Jodi … thank you! Congrats to everyone who contributed to this thrilling issue …

  10. Once again it’s fantastic to be here among all these great pieces. The look of this issue is breath-taking, Walter you have outdone yourself and disenthralled has to be a front runner.

  11. Enjoyed your poem, Jodi. Blink-on.

  12. There’s no desire to get off this ride. The visual and written art are one joy.

    The subtle thoughts and processes of Jim’s a broken piece of metal delivered the message perfectly, powerfully, I thought.

    Roberta Lawson’s His Real Doll is the best, brightest nightmare I can remember having. Flawless.

    Like Jesus’ loaves and fish, Jodi’s Blink’s got enough desolation to feed the masses.

    Mr. Godwin’s Threshold Birth is sensual, dark brilliance. It gave me yet another glimpse of the knowing that gets him these beauties.

    Mary’s Bonne anneé’s an entire story, a profundity in eleven words. Superb.

    And here’s Mr. Kuntz again doin’ up macabre. If mine was a delicate stomach, I might’ve heaved razor blades, happily.

    Maria Gornell’s Numb begged I relish this pigs fat floats near swollen throat and such. Yummy.

    Lynn Alexander’s Going is hot. What a conceptual jewel, so brilliantly cut!

    And Lena’s poem came as lovely as death.

    Walter and Paul, the ride rocked. And I can come here and get back on it any time I want. That’s righteous.

  13. Jodi MacArthur: you have such focus; your words dig and dig to find every way into my soul. i must make mention (intentional or not) how beautifully your words lend such a vivid & living description after “blink, the eyes open” and how after “blink, eye closes” your words reflect it all in haunting memory. the effect is stunning; it hit me like those last few notes of a beethoven symphony; powerful & classic.

  14. Thanks, everyone. Appreciate your comments. It’s a sheer joy to work with material like this.


  15. Wow, super creepy issue. It’s amazing how each one complemented the one before and led into the next, like chapters of a book. Great crop of writers on this one.

  16. Offbeatjim – Your piece tells so much in so little, intriguing yet simple.

    Roberta Lawson – Fantastic!

    Jodi MacArther, That was just so beautiful and cryptic.

    Richard Godwin – What a great take on where our world maybe in the future. This was most excellent!

    Mary Mills – this is so packed full of emotion in such a short piece, kudos.

    Len Kuntz – Wow, so sick and twisted, but juicy and so completely loved by me.

    Maria Gornell – I think I’m in love with you! So Dark, so very dark and delicious…

    Lynn Alexander – I’ve never wanted to nor have had to be a victim myself, so I wonder if this is truly how they feel, I would agree with you and believe that it is.

    Lena Vanelslander – What a great finish to such a masterful work of art.

    Great job everyone, I’m sorry I’m so behind in posting my comments, but I will get to everything eventually! This is one mag that I hate missing out on! Walter and staff – you never cease to amaze me.

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Hey…. « disenthralled on 14 Feb 2010 at 9:26 am

    […] ISSUE #5 (offbeatjim, Roberta Lawson, Jodi MacArthur, Richard Godwin, Mary Mills, Len Kuntz, Maria Gornell, Lynn Alexander, Lena Vanelslander/Photography by Bailey Elizabeth, Sarah Bloom, Brooke Shaden, Paul Dutra and Kimberley Joanne Sinclair) […]

  2. By Zero,zero « The Essence of a Thing on 16 Feb 2010 at 1:13 pm

    […] Conley has let loose his finely edited MiCrow product directly after doing one bang-up job with Issue #5 of his own mag, “disenthralled.”  It’s all too much, a greedy reader’s finest nightmare.  […]

  3. By GENRE « FictionDaily on 25 Feb 2010 at 3:38 am

    […] In Genre on February 25, 2010 at 7:30 am She is looking at me. Not looking at me. Her eyes are wide open. They are not looking anywhere. I ca… (This story comes after the first poem on the page. It’s called, “His Real Doll.) […]

  4. By Portfolio « Richard Godwin on 25 Feb 2010 at 3:59 am

    […] Issue #5 […]

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