Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Suitcase Charlie -- available as a Kindle Pre-Order

Suitcase Charlie -- Kindle Pre-Order

My crime novel Suitcase Charlie can now be pre-ordered as a Kindle.  The book is scheduled to go live on June 1, 2015.

Here's a synopsis of the book:

May 30, 1956. Chicago 

On a quiet street corner in a working-class neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and refugees, the body of a little schoolboy is found in a suitcase. 

He’s naked and chopped up into small pieces. 

The grisly crime is handed over to two detectives who carry their own personal burdens, Hank Purcell, a married WWII veteran, and his partner, a wise-cracking Jewish cop who loves trouble as much as he loves the bottle. 

Their investigation leads them through the dark corners and mean streets of Chicago—as more and more suitcases begin appearing. 

Based on the Schuessler-Peterson murders that terrorized Chicago in the 1950s.

Click here to pre-order at Amazon.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sweet Home Chicago

I grew up in a section of Chicago that was called Murdertown in the local papers.  This was back in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s.

My friends were beaten, stabbed, pulled from their bicycles and cars and knocked into the street. One of my friends was dragged out of his house by a gang and beaten with clubs until he was unconscious.  He was a good boy, kind of sissy-like with long hair and a soft voice but a good boy.  He was in the hospital for about a month.  He didn’t want to ever leave it. 

One time, a man was shot dead in front of my house.  When I went outside after the police showed up to see what they were doing, a cop called me a mother fucker and told me he’d throw my ass in jail if I didn't get back home.

I was 12.

I went back into the house and never stepped outside again when someone was shot in front of my house.

I carried a knife, a switchblade, in my pocket. Twice I used it on somebody so that they wouldn't hurt me. Once it was a friend, who was just joking around. He jumped out of an alley way when he saw me passing.  I didn't know he was joking, and I stabbed him in the stomach.

When I couldn't get a knife, I carried a hammer or a baseball bat. The hammer was better, lighter, and I could put it in my belt.

Every couple of years there were riots.  Mostly in the summer.  One time it was so bad that Mayor Daley, the old one, felt the cops needed some back-up so he called in the National Guard.  The soldiers drove around the neighborhood in jeeps with loaded machine guns.  Nights, you could hear the shooting, see flames rolling off of  apartment buildings burning just south of us.

Three of the priests at my old parish St. Fidelis were convicted years later of being pedophiles. They heard my confessions and told me to say three Hail Marys and three Our Fathers. They weren't interested in me. I wasn't pretty enough for them.

One time a gang attacked my mother and me when we were coming home from the supermarket. This was in the early afternoon. It was bright and warm. We were carrying shopping bags, and they wanted to steal our food. We fought them off. My mother beat one of the gang boys down to the sidewalk. He tried to crawl away, but she kept kicking him and kicking him. He pleaded with his homeboys to come save him from my mom. They wouldn't come. They were afraid. Finally, my mother stopped kicking the gang boy, and she let him crawl away.

My mother had survived 2 years of life in a concentration camp, and she knew how to get by in the streets of Chicago, in our old neighborhood.

We finally had to move when the house we had been living in was burned to the ground during a gang war in the early 1970s. 

Nobody every rebuilt on that spot. It’s still an empty lot in Murdertown 42 years later.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Call for Submissions: Poems on Dreams and Dreamers and Dreaming

Call for Submissions

Poems on Dreams and Dreamers and Dreaming

am looking for poems for an online mini-anthology of poems about dreaming and dreams.

They will appear in Scream Online, an online arts/culture/literature journal that gets about 50,000 hits a month. 

The journal in the past has published poems by Dorianne Laux, Jared Carter, Robin Davidson, Tom C. Hunley, Helen Degen Cohen, Charles Fishman, Bruce Guernsey, Lola Haskins, Rick Hilles, Sharon Mesmer, and many others.  

Here's a link to the most recent mini-anthology: Heaven and Hell: 48 Poems by 37 Poets.

What I'm looking for are poems talking about what you think about dreams or dreaming.  The poems can be previously published or unpublished.  Short prose pieces (prose poems?) would also work.  

The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2015.

Send your poems to John Guzlowski at jzguzlowski (at)

Looking forward to hearing from you.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Me and Charles Simic: A Couple of Refugee Poets

I got an email yesterday from a friend. He asked me what I thought about Charles Simic. He's a poet that some of you might have heard of. He was the poet laureate of the US a couple of years ago. I think my friend was asking me about him because he figured that Charles Simic and I shared some history. We both came to the US after the war as Displaced Persons, refugees.

My friend's question got me thinking. I wonder how old Simic was when he came here to America, Chicago. I think he was older than I was--he was born before the war and he probably remembers a lot of it. I was born in 1948 and remember only the DP camps and what I heard my parents and their friends talking about. In one of the official biographies, it says Simic's life was "complicated by the events of World War II." I like the way that makes the war sound like something no more important than static on your radio, a couple hours without internet.

I doubt he ever read my poems, but I've read a lot of his.

His poems to me feel European, existential, surreal, funny in a really dark way. Maybe it's because of the different ways we learned our English. I learned it from the ground up starting when I came over when I was three. Coming to the states when he was in his teens, he probablly learned his English from the middle up (and down), and so the words he knows are the words for little plain things and big ideas, frightening and foreign even though they are a lot of times our own.

Here's a poem Charles Simic wrote.


In his fear of solitude, he made us.
Fearing eternity, he gave us time.
I hear his white cane thumping
Up and down the hall.

I expect neighbors to complain, but no.
The little girl who sobbed
When her daddy crawled into her bed
Is quiet now.

It's quarter to two.
On this street of darkened pawnshops,
Welfare hotels and tenements,
One or two ragged puppets are awake.


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Here's a poem I wrote called "A Dog Will." It recently was published in The Convergence Review.

A Dog Will

A dog will
eat a dog

and a dog will
eat a man

and a man will
eat a dog

and a man will
eat a man

and a man will eat
his own father

sister and brother
even the mother

who fed him
milk at her breast

even though
every rule

of his church
and his people

tells him not to
if he is hungry


If you want to see a youtube of Charlie Simic reading at Cornell, just click here.

If you want to see a youtube of me reading at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NYC, just click here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Faith, Belief, and Disbelief


At a reading of poems from my book Lightning and AshesI read the ones about my father’s faith and my mother’s loss of faith, and some school children in the audience ask me if I believe, and I don’t know what to say.

I don’t believe of course, but it’s not easy standing up and saying that I don’t have any faith, that God is not in my heart, that all their dreams of Heaven and salvation and the final reunions with their mothers and fathers in some blessed place beyond time is lost on me.  Especially to kids.

How can I say to them that, for me, when Jesus died he died.

I try to find something that will soothe the school children, speak to them, give them some hope in hope, but what can I tell them?

Can I give them something from Emerson or Whitman? Call I tell them, “That heaven walks among us”? Or that what “is really Me shall live just as much as before”?

I can’t tell them what I can’t tell them, and instead I tell another story, about how I told my wife I didn’t believe in anything and she looked at me and said, “You’re kidding yourself. You’re the most spiritual person I know.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Last Man on Earth

My flash fiction piece "The Last Man on Earth" appears in a audio podcast read by the actor Elijah Lucian.

It is the 2nd of three stories.  The other two are "The Flight" and "The Invasion."

Here's the link to the podcast on YouTube:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Dreams -- Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944

By the winter of 1944, my father had been in Buchenwald for 3 years. 
He thought the war would never end and he would die there, some cold winter morning. I wrote a long sequence of poems about that winter. The sequence is called "Third Winter of War: Buchenwald" and it's in my book Lightning and Ashes.  
Here is one of the poems from that sequence: It's about the nightmares my dad had in the camp. They continued until the day he died 53 years later. Theywere always with him.


He dreams again his hands are cut
to pieces. He dreams he is falling.
He dreams he is an old woman
eating the fingers of a young boy
who died when his horse reared
up crazily and crushed him.
He dreams he swims in a river
he can’t escape. It is the blood
of the devil, thick and dark
and like acid to the tongue.
He dreams of eating human flesh,
of women copulating with corpses,
of dogs licking his fingers,
of soldiers spreading manure
around the red and white roses
beside the church in his village.
He dreams he swims in a river
he can’t escape. It is the blood
of the devil, thick and dark
and like acid to the tongue.


The statement on the gate at Buchenwald reads "Jedem Das Seine."  It is German for "To Each His Own."