Home Poetry



by Anastasia Jill


He graduated with a bachelor’s
in aquatic education.
They took his shirt,
hairy toes,
tan synonyms.

Rainbow strips give his lap a dance,
of tourmaline wands
and star topped

He is adult swim,
whistle reality.

out of the





Come titanium quartz,
turn into libertine water;
charm the bubbles
off the hips
of a holly blue tide.

There are light bulbs
behind her thighs,
lifting her skirt,
collecting arms.

She likes mushrooms,
she likes ants,
she is carved
from your rib of Adam.

Fight for her well.





I have always wanted to swim at night with the moon’s kept eyes on my shoulders. She watches
us both you know. Addresses us as a we. She’s twitching, snags. Gets stuck
at the bottom of our show.

It’s pretty; it’s fuchsite clouds and leaf smocks. It’s pink, and since when is a sunset pink?
The moon is a grin in the sky, holding my hair off my neck. I am soft and warm.
I don’t care that he’s abeam.
I kiss him.





No diving, he says,
shoving his spit into my mouth,
using my eyes to illuminate the
chlorinated tops of trees.

My bubbles wax neon blue
and gasps when he jumps

Small price to pay
for purple hands
and an ocean made





I don’t have to share him.
I don’t have to share him
with anyone except my mouth,
linked to him by air hunger.
His words grit against my teeth –
he’s mine, I’m not his –
because I want to talk the way
a 90s bathing suit fits:

pink and blue heat lightning
on a white, nylon backdrop
giving me ample room to stretch
my apple red belly button.

He is mine and I keep him
under eight feet of rope.
These are owlish waters
holding his yellow message:

staff access only
after hours.





I have pilgrim green hair
and renegade tits,
that can hold their breath
for a minute.

I dig my knees into bath lights,
hold tight,
to chlorinated nights.

He can’t make me get out of the pool.
I’m too pretty to leave.





Anastasia Jill (Anna Keeler) is a queer poet and fiction writer living in the southern United States. She is a current editor for the Smaeralit Anthology. Her work has been published or is upcoming with Poets.org, Lunch Ticket, FIVE:2:ONE, Ambit Magazine, apt, Into the Void Magazine, 2River, and more.







Baby Fever

by Pascale Potvin


“We need an ambulance! My friend’s been stabbed and she’s pregnant! Uh … uh … four months!” someone’s cry pierced through my dizzy fog. That’s when I noticed everyone in the kitchen and that they were staring at me. Overwhelmed, I looked down, still clutching my burning belly. My hands were red. Oh.



“How far along are you?” asked Trish, looking up again from across the table. Her gaze pushed into me like a bulldozer. I leaned back into my chair, insecure about my answer.

“Eight weeks,” I said.

The three women attacked their notepads with their pencils.

Their names were Olive, and Kate (I think), and, in the middle, leading the interview, sat Trish Barton. That woman was all I’d heard her to be. She was blonde, with great skin, and so petite; you could have never guessed that she’d had two children. Nor that they’d been home births. Her kids (a boy and a girl) would probably grow up to be as small as her, too, since she was raising them vegetarian. Basically, she was everything that every Elk Creek mother wanted to be. Already she intimidated me, and she was five years my junior.

“And you’re married?” she asked, with a smile as perfectly tight as the rest of her face.
I’d been expecting to be asked a lot about my living situation.

“Yes,” I answered. “As of recently, uh, his name is James.”

“Oh, congrats. How did you meet?”

“Four years ago,” I said. “He… was at a bar where we were having a company party. I didn’t- uh, I don’t usually go out, and he could tell. He stole me away”. I thought of it, of that image of James in his striped button-up. He’d pulled his sleeves up as he’d approached me, as if telling me he was determined to seduce me–though he’d probably just wanted to show off his arms. I still couldn’t believe I’d fallen for that overgrown frat boy. I chuckled to myself, thinking about it. When I looked back at Trish, though, her face hadn’t moved.

“What do you do?” she asked.

“Uh, I was an accountant for a car company,” I said. “I’m looking for a replacement.”

“And your husband?”

“Yes. He got a job at a hospital in the city, um-”

“Oh. Nice.”

“He’s a doctor.”

Her mouth opened the tiniest bit before she went back to her notepad. I tried to peek.

“And where are you living now?” she smiled up at me.

“It’s a house on Collingwood Street,” I said.

“Oh, so you’re the new owner,” Her high-pitched voice flapped its wings excitedly. Her face had opened up now. A little weird. “Well, lovely, lovely. Will you have transportation?”

“Yes, we have a car.”

“Okay. And how are you liking Elk Creek?”

“We love it,” I said. “We wanted to go somewhere family-oriented. And this was worth leaving, like, everything behind in Michigan.”

“So you understand the purpose of Elk Creek Mothers’ Association?”

I nodded. “Keep the community safe and organize events for moms and kids,” I said.

“And what will you contribute, if you’re chosen?”

I paused, massaging my hands together. Secretly, I hated questions like this; the job hunt was going to be a pain.

“Well, I love children more than-” I started. I was about to say anyone, then I realized that that might not be the best idea, considering who was interviewing me, “-anything. More than anything, I’ve always known I’ve wanted to be a mom, and…” I realized that I probably shouldn’t focus on myself, but on the benefits for the kids.

Trish and her vice-presidents wrote as I spoke. I couldn’t, despite trying, read their notes or their faces.

I told James all about it over dinner. We sat across the width of the dining room table, as the other way might have required us to cup our mouths and yell. I didn’t know why he’d gotten us such a big table, but I supposed that the room allowed for it.

“I’m not gonna get it,” I said, twirling my spaghetti on my fork, then sticking a load into my mouth.

“Of course you are,” he said. “It’s a volunteer position.” He stabbed into a meatball.

“One that everyone wants,” I mumbled, covering my chewing with my hand. “Why do you think I had to do an interview?”

“Is it really this elite thing?” he asked, chuckling and looking up at me. James had blue/green eyes; their color shifted like the tides. In this light, now, they looked a pale, consuming green. He was still so handsome to me with his short, curly brown hair; his thick eyelashes; the quirky asymmetrical-ness of his rectangle face. “But it’s called Ec-ma. Ec-ma,” he continued. “They couldn’t have a prettier name? Makes me think of eczema.”

I laughed until my phone started vibrating on the kitchen counter. I jumped upward, gulped down my noodles and jogged to it.

“Pregnant,” James reminded me.

I ignored him. “Hello?” I answered, in a semi-strangled voice.

“Hi. Lillian? This is Trish, from ECMA,” she said. “I’m calling to offer you membership to our group.”

“No way! Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much!” I exclaimed, looking back at James. He did a double thumbs-up.

“You’re welcome,” she said. “Do you accept?”

“Yes, for sure.”

“Great. Are you available this Thursday at 7:30 PM for our monthly public safety meeting?”

James would be back from work by then. I’d have the car in time.

“Yes, that’s fine,” I told her.

“It’s at the police station. Do you know where that is?”

“Yes,” I lied. I’d figure it out.

“Perfect. See you then,” she said. “Bring a notebook.” And she hung up.

“Told you you’d get it,” James said as I put the phone down. “They loved you.”

I strode back toward him, grinning.

“I admit, I got you something to celebrate,” he said, opening the glass door to the liquor cabinet. I squinted at him as he took out a bottle. “Non-alcoholic cider.” He pointed at the label.

I came closer and kissed him. He kissed me back, grabbing at my arm. He tasted like tomato sauce, and his stubble scratched at my face, but the moment was still nice.

We each had a glass and then we had sex.

When I got up the next morning for the bathroom, I found some blood in my underwear, which James had said was normal for pregnant women after sex. I filled the sink to soak them and then also drew myself a bath. I was nervous for my meeting that evening and I wanted to relax (also, the big tub, with jets, was one of my favourite features of the new house). I sat for a while in the hot, bubbling water and thought of baby name ideas. I’d been thinking of suggesting Madeline if it was a girl, which I was sort of hoping would be the case. Madeline sounded like a girl who’d laugh fervently, who’d love hugs and who would have her father’s eyes.

The meeting went fine, though I was exhausted by the time it ended. I wasn’t surprised; wanting to impress the group was probably piling onto my recent moving stress and crushing me. I went to bed before James that night, but still woke up late the next morning. When I went to the bathroom, I found more blood. Bleeding was normal at this stage, I assured myself. So was the pain in my abdomen. It had happened before.

Unfortunately, both symptoms continued sporadically for the next week, and pretty much non-stop the week after that. The exhaustion was the same.

“Would you be able to get me an ultrasound? For, like, as soon as possible?” I called James on his break the day I decided this was a problem. We hadn’t yet managed to procure a new family doctor, so he would have to play that role for now. I was grateful to have him.

“Of course. How you feeling today?” he asked. I could hear him close a door.

“The same,” I said. I hadn’t left the bed. “I officially think I’m gonna miscarry.” I was going to cry. Neither of us had yet said that word.

“Please don’t worry yet,” he told me in his most caressing voice. “It’s probably stress.”

“It hasn’t been that bad,” I argued, turning onto my side and sliding further under the covers.

“Yeah, but this started as soon as you joined the group,” he said. “That can’t be a coincidence. And…”


“I don’t know. Something about that group just kinda weirds me out,” he admitted.

“What do you mean?”

“Like… come on. Everyone here just worships those women. Plus, they’re making you do their bidding, for free, just for the honour of it?” I tried to intervene, but he continued, “You sure you haven’t accidentally joined some sort of cult?”

“In small-town Wisconsin?” I scoffed. Fuck, it hurt to do that. I rolled onto my back, holding myself. “Everything’s normal. Come on. It’s for the community.”

“The way you describe them, they just sound creepy. Are they not?”

“It’s not that bad,” I repeated.

“Really? You sure you’re not hurting and bleeding ‘cause they turned our baby into a demon baby or something? Rosemary’s Babied you up-”

“Stop,” I held back my laugher by the belly. Laughing wasn’t a good idea, either.

“Okay, but admit it. You’re taken by the elitism,” he said, his voice now dipping a little, like a frown. “And that’s what’s weird to me, ‘cause you’ve never seemed to care about that kind of thing.”

“I’m just trying to make new friends here, James. Mom friends. I’m bored and I’m lonely.”

“I get it. But you can do that without this Trish woman, can’t you? How old is she, again?”


“Right,” he said. I realized that she was a full decade under him.

“I guess I want my kid to have a good social standing,” I finally admitted. “You know I was bullied.”

James took in a harsh breath. “I understand,” he said. “And I think that’s great that you’re trying to give that to our children, but I think maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself. On top of looking for a job-”

My insides fell. “Are you asking me to quit the group?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t do that,” he said, quickly. “Actually… eh, I was wondering…”

They hit the ground. “If I shouldn’t get a job?”

“You’ll be on mat leave soon enough, anyway,” he finally said. “And you know I can support us both.”

I didn’t answer. I only swivelled my jaw.

“Then, maybe later, we can reconsider if you wanna work or not,” he said. “I don’t know. Think about it?”

“Fine,” I said. “But, please, get me that ultrasound.”

James was able to schedule me one for five days later–a Saturday. Unfortunately, I felt exponentially worse by the day. By Friday morning, it was like I had a hole tearing through me. The demon baby theory didn’t seem so implausible anymore.

I wept on the bed, leaving phone messages for James. I took my usual (maximum) dose of Tylenol, and then upped it a bit, but still, not much changed. When I finally struggled my way out of bed, I noticed that I’d left a bloodstain. I went to the bathroom and took off my clothes. I felt so weak and vulnerable, even nauseous, so it took a while. I ripped the pad off of my underwear–which, along with my pajama pants, had been stained, nonetheless–and threw it out. At least none of the blood seemed clotted.

I managed to make myself a hot bath, with jets. Once I got in, it helped the pain, a bit, but it worsened the nausea and the exhaustion. When I got out and checked my phone, it was still only nine o’clock. I had no idea if James would get my messages before his break.

I went back to the bed, in my bathrobe, to sit and try to think of what to do. If we’d been back home, I would have called a cab to the hospital, but there were none in this puny town. I could call an ambulance, as it’d come faster than a cab would from the city, but that seemed excessive. I would just have to make it a few hours. There was no way I was contacting ECMA, either; they couldn’t know that this was happening. I had just been accepted. I’d already forced a smile and gone to the last two meetings.

I changed into new underwear with a new pad, and new pajamas, then lay back down. Just a few hours.

It was easier thought than done, though. I held myself on the bed and cried for about thirty minutes until I gave in and lugged myself to the dining room.

“Forgive me,” I rasped, pulling out a bottle of scotch and a glass from the liquor cabinet. But she was probably already dead. I poured myself a glass then the contents down my throat. The burning it caused distracted from the burning in my abdomen. I poured another.

I was disoriented when I heard James yell, “What the fuck is this?!”

I lugged my head up from my arms, wiping my mouth. I looked at my hand. My saliva was brown. I looked to my right. James was standing next to me. I was still sitting at the dining table. I’d fallen asleep. I’d never fallen asleep at a table like this.

“Is this why this is happening? Is this what you’ve been doing during the day?!” he continued. I looked up at him. He was sneering, his eyes burning hell into me. I’d thought that I’d already seen him at his angriest, but apparently I hadn’t even seen him close. “What kind of mother are you?!”

“No,” I groaned. “Have… you found me like this before?”

“Well, I don’t know,” he said, leaning down further into me. “You’ve been really emotional-”

“Because I’m in fucking pain and I’m fucking losing my baby,” I said. I strained myself up straighter, but my head was spinning. “I need the hospital.”

He stared into me for a few seconds. His eyes had gone paler, colder. “No,” he said.

My heart jump-started. “What the f-” I tried.

“You’re not going anywhere. They can’t see you like this. Even if you’re not a drunk, they’ll think you are.”

“It’s… not… optional.”

“Sure it is,” he said. “Didn’t you want a home birth so bad? Like what’s-her-face? Have a home miscarriage.”

Then, he passed me for the kitchen. I put my head back on the table and cried again.

The pain woke me up before James the next morning. I heaved myself over to the bathroom–a ritual now–and the usual blood was there. I started to undress when I was taken by nausea.

I sensed James walk in behind me puking.

“Hungover?” he snarked.

“Please,” I whimpered.

I got changed, and he drove me, in silence, to the hospital. It was in the car seat that I started to really feel the bleeding. Feel it get thicker.

After the painfully long drive, I was given away to a Dr. Schuster, a middle-aged black woman with black ponytailed braids. She helped me put on a hospital gown, and she set me down on the plastic bed. I was shivering. I covered my eyes as she checked me. I felt her clean me. It was cold. But there was no colder feeling than the one in my belly–and, though I knew that it was just fear, it also felt an awful lot like a dead baby.

“I’m so sorry. You did have a miscarriage,” she said, standing over me, dropping each word down gentler than the last.

But it doesn’t matter how gently you drop a child’s corpse onto her mother’s face.

She might as well have dropped a boulder on me, I thought. And, in that moment, I wondered what my daughter looked like. She’d probably resembled red, thick lava when she’d been ejected from the center of my core–but now I was a volcano with no purpose left, and now both of us were cold.

“I’m gonna give you an ultrasound to make sure there are no further complications and that you’re safe,” Dr. Schuster said, and I grimaced. I was grateful, at least, to have her instead of James.

“It still hurts,” I grumbled, lips dry.

She had me open the front of my gown. She put the ultrasound gel on my belly then felt across it with the stick.

“Is it all out?” I muttered.

“Actually…” she said, her voice shaking now, “I’m going to have to put you into surgery.”

“Why?” I rasped, sitting up quickly and wincing.

“You’ve had an ectopic pregnancy.”

I hadn’t heard of that before, which wasn’t a good sign.

“Your egg failed to travel through your fallopian tube,” she explained. “Your foetus has been growing in there, and now it’s burst it. You’re bleeding internally and… your other tube might have been damaged, too. I’m going to have to go in to try to save it.”

Everything, then, felt like it was spinning and shifting. Probably because everything was. I erupted, again, this time with tears.

When I woke up in a hospital bed, I tried to shoot up straight. My abdomen cried out in pain, and so did I. I remembered that I’d had surgery. A nurse called for Dr. Schuster, who entered shortly after.

“Can I have kids?” I mumbled.

“I’m so sorry, Lillian,” she said, her face struggling to stay adrift. “It’s not likely you’ll be able to conceive. Your tube was badly ruptured, and your other one was…”

I tuned her out, then. I retreated all the way under the covers and closed my eyes.

When I was more awake, she gave me and James the instructions for my care.

“No working for eight weeks,” she said. “And absolutely no sex.” Her expression had finally given up and died now. So had mine. It had gone down with my baby.

My baby had died and taken the rest of my insides with her.

James took my hand in his. It was stiff. I looked up at him. He was pale and frozen over. Definitely also dead.

“Again, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Dr. Schuster said to us. “Take your time to grieve, but remember that-”

“Thank you,” James snapped, which made me cringe a little.

And the drive home felt like the one there.

“I called Trish,” he said, breaking the silence, keeping his eyes on the dark road ahead. “Begged her to keep you in the group.”

“Of course she’s not gonna keep me in the group,” I grimaced, picking at a cuticle. “It’s a mothers’ association, and I’m no longer a mother.”

“Well, she said they’d discuss it.”

“I could have done it myself,” I argued, pausing to clamp my teeth together. “It could’ve waited.”

“I thought you might be embarrassed.”

Something about that rubbed me the wrong way. It even struck me.

“Why would I be embarrassed?” I asked, then, in a weakened voice. “…Because it’s my fault?”

He didn’t answer.

“For drinking?” I pushed. “Or for putting too much stress on myself? Daring to look for a job?”

James let out a dense exhale. “I didn’t say that, Lil,” he muttered.

It wasn’t a denial that he believed it, though.

“I can’t believe you think that.” My voice was shaking. “You did this to me, not me.”

At that, he pulled the car over and turned to look into my eyes. But he kept his grip on the wheel. “Excuse me?” he growled.

“You’re a doctor. You know what an ectopic pregnancy is, James. You know it was failed from the beginning. When your sperm entered me and ripped me up slowly from the inside.”

I watched the anger bubble up inside him, then. “You don’t mean that,” it finally escaped as a chuckle. “You still have those hormones going.”

“Hormones?! I just lost my purpose in life.”

“So did I!”

“But you’re not the one who had to just go through that,” I screamed, the hairs on my arms rising with my voice. “Have some humanity! I just want my husband to comfort me right now, not fucking attack me!”

But all he did was turn back toward the wheel. He stared again at the black nothingness ahead, and it reflected in his eyes. We sat there, listening to our own hard breaths, until he finally spoke again.

“Humanity is defined by the ability to reproduce, isn’t it?” he said, and he turned the car back into the road.

I was too stunned to even respond. Had he just implied what I thought? Had my husband just diagnosed me with not being human anymore?

I was taken by rage. He had done this to me.

The continuing, torturous silence was shaken, thankfully, when my phone vibrated at my feet. I struggled, aching in every sense of the word, to pick up my purse and retrieve it.

“Hello?” I groaned.

“Lillian? This is Trish,” came Trish’s glossy voice from the other side. But she also sounded a bit more genuine, more normal now. “I wanted to say that I’m so, so sorry to hear about what happened. I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”

I know you can’t, I thought.

“Thank you, Trish,” I said. “I appreciate it.”

“Do you need some time to yourself or do you have it in you-”

“Just lay it on me.”

“Okay. Well… we talked about it for a long time. It was difficult. Because we could really feel how passionate you are about the association, and we’ve appreciated having you so far. So… we actually came up with a possible compromise, if you’ll accept it.”

I felt the littlest fragment of life return to me.

“What kind?” I asked, leaning against the window.

“So, we have an official Facebook page, you might know. I like to keep it active, to attract attention. Like, post some content a couple times a day. But I wouldn’t mind that job being taken off me, if you want it,” she said. “It seems perfect for your… situation. You’re homebound, correct?”


“Well, since it’s online,” she said, “You won’t have to leave home to do it. And… since you’ll be behind a computer, and no one can tell who’s posting, anyway, no one will tell that you’re…”

“Not pregnant,” I said. It was such a pity offer, but I still appreciated it. I couldn’t believe that Head Mom Trish Barton was being more forgiving than my husband. “So… I just have to post as if I were pregnant? Or a mom?”

“Uh, exactly.”

“Well, okay,” I said, and then took in a cold breath. “Thank you… so much.”

“No problem. I’ll e-mail you more details in the morning, and you can let me know when you’re ready to start. For now, get some rest and feel better.”


The next morning, I went to the office computer and indeed found an email from her.

Hi Lillian, it said,

If you go to Facebook you’ll see I made you an admin for our page. That means you’ll be able to post to it under our name. Take a look at the past content, if you haven’t already, to get an idea of what kind of stuff is good. Articles about parenting are great, as long as it’s not ‘disciplining’ tips or anything too aggressive like that. Also please look for funny ‘memes’ about motherhood. Basically just fun, light-hearted stuff. Oh, and add appropriate captions, please.

Posts should go up once every morning and once every afternoon. You can start whenever you feel ready. Just let me know when that is and I’ll leave it to you 🙂

Take care,


I can start today, I wrote her, or I may die of boredom.

I went on Google and looked up ‘parenting article’. I clicked on a page titled What to Expect When Your Child Starts Kindergarten.

It opened with an image of a mother and daughter smiling together.

Oh … god.

  1. You’ll want to keep track of all of the school activities and meetings and help out when you can, it said.
  2. Making friends with other parents will be a huge stress-saver.
  3. Your child may cry because they’re scared or because they miss you, but that doesn’t always mean that they don’t want to be at school.
  4. Your child will be a lot more tired than before. They may start to fall asleep in weird places. It will be cute.

As I read, the pain where my baby used to be flared up like a phantom limb. I couldn’t do this. I hadn’t realized how difficult this would be.

ECMA definitely didn’t realize it, either, though. They had been so kind to find this job for me. If I didn’t do it, I had nothing left.

I decided to just try a different route. I exited the article and Googled, ‘Mom memes’.

The first image was a simple illustration of a woman, accompanied by the text, That moment when you’re checking on your sleeping baby and their eyes open so you run before you make direct eye contact.

My eyes swelled and my hands contorted. Just hurry up and post it, I told myself, then you can go wallow under your covers again. I saved the image and put it up on the Facebook with the caption, Haha, I hate when this happens!

Pressing every key was like stabbing myself over and over.

I was still under the covers that afternoon when I heard James unlock the door. Thankfully, he fussed around cooking in the kitchen for a while before approaching the room.

“Lil?” he mumbled. “I made dinner.”

My brain foggy, I forced myself to get up and follow him to the dining room. He helped me sit down at the table. He’d set out steak and potatoes for us. Plus, a bottle of wine, with wine glasses. He offered me one.

“Thank you, the food looks amazing,” I said, “But not right now.”

“Why not?” he asked, uncorking the bottle. “You can drink it now.”

I stared into my lap and ran my tongue between my teeth. “What is this?” I finally asked, my voice sharp.

He sighed. “I wanted to make it up to you, after last night,” he admitted. “You were right. I shouldn’t have been fighting with you.”

I sighed, too, nodding. I was still hurt by what he’d said, but I didn’t want to bring it up. Clearly, he didn’t either. So we made dull conversation about his day as we ate. I avoided talking about mine.

When we finished, he took away the dishes and I went to the living room couch.

“What are you up to tonight?” he asked, entering from the kitchen behind me. “Want to see what’s on TV?”

“Could you get me my book?” I countered. “In the bedroom?”

“Sure,” he said. Then, “Why don’t you read in there? You’ll be warmer.”

“I guess, but I’ve been lying there all day.”

“I could help entertain you,” he said. He came up behind me and rubbed my shoulder.

I turned, looking up at him with a grimace. “You know I can’t have sex, James.”

He chuckled. “I mean, it’s actually not that big of a deal-”

“Except I’m really not up for it. In any capacity.”

He paused. “Okay, okay, just trying to be close with you,” he grumbled, before walking away.

Of course, I was going by what Dr. Schuster had told me–and James, as her peer, should have known better–but, in truth, I was most resistant for my own reasons. I just could not get that image of James’s invasive, destructive sperm out of my mind. I did not want his semen anywhere near me anymore, after what it had done to me. I was disgusted by it, by the very idea of sex with him.

Unfortunately, throughout the next few weeks, James continued to try to initiate it with me. And, as I continued to say no, he continued to get grumpier. Funnily enough, I couldn’t remember him ever being this horny before. It was interesting that he wanted to fuck me the most now that he didn’t consider me human.

Eventually, he got the message and he stopped pushing. In one sense of the word, that is. Instead, he began to push himself, sometimes, onto my healing abdomen while we were cuddling… to even, some nights, knee it in his sleep. But I suspected that he wasn’t asleep.

When I would go to the computer to post for ECMA, in the morning, I also started to find paused porn videos left open on the computer. I understood that James needed to get his urges out, somehow, but, like the kneeing, it happened just a little too often to seem truly accidental. This was another expression of frustration at me, then. James was rubbing in my face that I wasn’t satisfying him. He was showing me exactly who all of the younger, hotter women were that were getting him off.

I only really started to become afraid when the porn started to get violent. I would go to the computer to find images of women–though that wasn’t what they were being called, in these video titles–being stepped on, hit with things, choked. Their faces always showed distress or discomfort, and when they didn’t, it was because they were being shoved into a bag, trashcan, or toilet. At that point, I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was the kind of thing that James was into. But I felt that this porn might have become more than just a taunting… had it also become a threat?

I cried a lot during those weeks. Fearing for myself, what he might do to me in my sleep, I locked myself in the bathroom at night and slept in the tub. Weirdly, he never challenged me for it. He acted like everything was normal. He’d ask me how I was feeling. I would tell him everything was great, and he’d smile.

When I went in for my first check-up with Dr. Schuster (Aileen, she said to call her), she told me that I was behind in my healing. It was most definitely the kneeing, I knew. But I realized what I had to say.

“We had sex,” I told her. “I’m sorry.”

She shook her head. I felt a heavy shame for disappointing her, even though it had been a lie.

“I understand you want to try again,” she said, sitting down at her chair across from me. “It’s common for couples in this situation to have trouble dealing with it, at first.”

I wrung my fingers.

“I hope this isn’t intrusive for me to say, but… your husband has seemed depressed lately,” she continued, her wide face dipping a little. “He’d mentioned how many kids you two wanted… so I wanted to ask you how you’re doing, mentally.”

I looked back into her eyes. James and I had never actually talked numbers. Both of us adored kids, of course, but it had made sense to me to just take it one at a time.

I almost said nothing. “How many kids did we want?” I decided to ask. It came out grumbly.

“Pardon me?” asked Aileen.

“How many did he say we wanted?”

“Well… he’d said at least eight.”

I felt so heavily confused and disturbed, in that moment, like I could fall over–like she’d reached out and slapped me. Eight kids? Eight? Where the heck had he gotten that idea? My personal limit would probably have been half that number; why did he go around saying something so outrageous, when we’d never even discussed it?

I had an itch of a thought, and so when I got home, I did my own personal Googling. One of the results included a page in a women’s health blog, What is Reproductive Coercion?. I dismissed it at first, but the title kept chipping at me until I went back and clicked on it.

Have you ever heard of men obsessed with getting and keeping their partners pregnant?, the author wrote. Chances are that you haven’t. However, new studies have found that this form of domestic abuse is almost as common as are bruises and broken bones. Whether subtle or forceful, it is just another form of power and control that a man can exert over a woman’s body and life. He may be performing reproductive coercion if he:

  1. Sabotages your birth control. Maybe he’s lied about having had a vasectomy, or he ‘accidentally’ keeps ripping the condom, or he tells you that your birth control is making you fat. He might even escalate to doing something like rip out your contraceptive ring.
  2. Isolates you–limits your access to money and transportation. It may also be a strategy to prevent you from acquiring birth control. Or maybe he wants you to quit your job so that you can focus on being a mother (and be totally dependant on him). Isolating you can also prevent you from getting refuge from your family or friends.
  3. Verbally, psychologically and/or emotionally pressures you into having sex and/or getting pregnant.
  4. Uses violence or threats of violence to pressure into having sex and/or getting pregnant.
  5. Wants you continuously pregnant. He may attempt to make another baby either directly after you give birth (or miscarry), or as soon as your previous child begins kindergarten (and your schedule opens up).

A stinging, tingly feeling surfaced in my limbs as I read. It gradually got stronger, then moved to my core.

I sat, paralyzed, thinking back to the beginnings of my relationship with James. He’d been upfront about his traditional leanings, his need to get married and to have kids. I’d found it endearing, romantic—as I had his eventual suggestion that we run away together. Men with a passion for children are attractive to many women, including myself. And, because I’d shared his passion, I suppose that I had never had to face his wrath. Until now.

As Aileen had suggested, he was probably refusing to accept that I was now infertile. His obsession with sex was probably a desperate, delusional attempt to get me pregnant again. Either that, or he was panicking and trying to control me in other ways.

I almost scoffed at the predictability when I came to the computer, one morning, and found ‘pregnant woman porn’. Of course James had this fetish. And of course he was going to go down this road; this was the ultimate taunt, the ultimate display of what I could never be for him.

I should have grimaced and closed the tab as quickly as possible, of course. That was what I usually did. This time, though, something different happened. I stared at the image. Really stared at it.

The woman was leaning on all fours, her eyes jammed shut and her mouth agape, her inflated belly dangling pathetically. Her hair, a mess, fell partially in her face and was pulled partially back by the man fucking her from behind. I hit play on the video. The words suffer, you pregnant bitch clotted together in my mind.

When I finally did close the tab to get to my Facebook responsibilities, my bitterness lived on. It always did, when I did this work. This time, though, it was even more intense. It filled the room, now. Plus, now that it knew what revenge felt like, it wanted more of it.

I had a few notifications from comments on my latest pregnancy meme–one that had especially made me feel like killing myself. They were idiotic, tart messages like ‘sooo truuueee’ and laughing faces; god, I pitied these women’s children. Rage spiralled in my stomach, flashed underneath my skin as I stared down their profile photos in the same way I had the woman in the video. Their big bellies and smiling husbands made me wish upon them the same fate. I wanted, so horribly, for them to feel that humiliation for being pregnant. That trauma.

I realized that maybe I could get them close.

I logged out of Facebook and created a new account under the pseudonym Joe Coen. I then went back to the ECMA page and to the profiles of frequent commenters. I composed a message, which I sent to all of them:

Here’s where I’d like to see you soon 🙂

And I attached the porn link.

A few hours later, I received a call from Trish. When she said we needed to talk, my inner sanctum–the satisfaction I’d made for myself–imploded on itself. She knew that it had been me. Somehow. How? It made no sense how she would. Yes, I controlled the Facebook page, but it was also accessible to everyone. And the world was not short of misogynistic men who sent messages like that.

It was probably a coincidence, then. This was about something else. Still, the worry would keep me up all night if I didn’t talk to her today. I asked her to come over, preferably before my husband came home.

The low look on her face, when I opened the door, made my worry flare up worse. I invited her over to the kitchen. Her steps were careful. I was definitely in trouble. My mind ran in zig-zags, debating what to do.

I offered her a seat at the counter, and, when she denied a drink, sat across from her. I forced a smile. I decided that unless I was offered undeniable proof that she’d tracked me down, I would do just that–deny.

“So,” she said. She was still avoiding eye contact. She rested her French-tipped hand on the counter and cleared her throat. “I don’t know if you heard, but a lot of women from our Facebook received a really nasty message this morning.”

I widened my eyes and gasped. “Oh no,” I said. “Did you want me to do something?”

“That’s not why I came, no,” she said, and she finally looked back at me. “I’m here to ask you to tell me, completely honestly, if it was you.”

Her eyes pressed into me like a drill, making me shake.

“W-why would you think it was me?” I responded. Acting had never been a thing of mine.

“Because I had a miscarriage once,” she said.

My shock, then, was real.

“Surprise,” she chuckled, baring teeth. “Yes. I was pregnant once before Noah, and no one knows except my husband.”

“I’m sorry-”

“Don’t. I’m just trying to make a point,” she said, resting both arms on the counter now. She was shaking, too. “I had become such a mess, y’know. I hid it well, but I was super depressed for about six months, and… angry. Like, I hated pregnant women… moms in general. I had thoughts that… and, my therapist–yup, I have one of those, too–told me that that can happen when you miscarry.”

I swallowed, gripping my shirt.

“And so I can’t imagine how much worse it might be, for you, because…” she continued, pursing her lips and speeding up her blinking. “I thought about it today, and maybe having you do the Facebook may not have been the best idea. Right?”

I put my head down and nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked. “If it was too much-”

“Because… I need… “ I struggled, putting my face into my hands.

“Do you have a support system?” she asked, quieter now. “Your husb-”

“Is that a line from your therapist?” I retorted.

“Maybe,” she said. Do you want his number?”

I looked back up at her. Chuckled. “Maybe,” I said, crossing my arms. “Now that I’m out of the mommy group. Now that everyone’s gonna hate me.”

She shifted in her seat.

“How about this?” she said. “I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine.”

I found myself leaning back toward her. The heavy look in her blue eyes was filling me with some hope.

“And… I understand that you need friends right now. So, even though I’m gonna have to kick you out of the group…” she continued, “You can still come to our social events.”

“…Do I have to pretend to still be pregnant?”

She paused. “No,” she said. “That would be cruel. And… weird. And people would figure it out. Besides, they’ll understand. I’ll just warn them about your situation, if that’s okay, so that they don’t say anything… uncomfortable. But we’re capable of socializing with people other than mothers. We could even use it.”

I thought about it. “I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it, honestly,” I said.

“Well, you can leave if you really need to. But I really think that if you get to know them, you’ll hate them less.”

“Is that what worked for you?”

She nodded. “We’re having bake sale Sunday afternoon,” she said, then. “I could use some extra hands. Would you be able to help, or are you still out of commission?”

“I should be, but I really need to get out of the house.”

“Great.” She actually smiled. “Most of the women you sent those messages to will be there. I hope that you can make friends.”

That hot, sunny Sunday afternoon, I drove up to Trish’s place early. It was tall, multi-sectioned, with lots of big windows and a fancy BMW parked out front. As soon as I saw it, I sped up and drove down a couple of blocks to park. Then I remembered that I was also driving a BMW. I took several deep breaths.

Once parked (closer, now), I reached, with some pain, for the pan of date tarts in the passenger seat. I strained my way with it to her door. I had been expecting to see a table or two on her lawn for the bake sale, but there were already several rows of tables propped up, ready to be used. This might as well have been a baked goods convention.

The door was partially open, but I knocked anyway, and soon heard the approaching clacking of what sounded like wedges.

“Lillian! You came,” she exclaimed, with her IKEA-white smile. She was wearing a purply sundress and had done herself up all nicely. “You’re the first one here. Come in!”

I handed her the pan and she thanked me and led me to her kitchen. “I’m about to start putting things out,” she told me. I walked behind her through her large, wood-and-stone living room; her little boy and girl were playing quietly in front of the fireplace. Seeing them gave me a flash of cold.

The kitchen was more modest and cozy. The floor was yellow tile. To my left was a wooden table cluttered with baking supplies. Trish went around it to the counter against the wall. A multi-colored curtain hung on the window next to her.

“Oh, good, Rick put in the muffins,” she said, peering into the oven. My body tensed.

I got worse as more mothers arrived. Trish figured that I should be sitting down, because of my healing, so she set me up at one of the tables to sell things. That meant that I was approached by all of the moms wanting to offer something and those wanting to buy.

I tried to make conversation, and get to know them, like Trish had suggested–I really did. Unfortunately, my anger rattled so loud in my brain that I could barely hear anything that they said. When I tried to talk about myself, my jaw remained so tense that it barely even worked. It was pathetic, trying to speak. The woman across from me would always end up walking away in silence. That made me more irritated, though. Trish had told them what I was going through.

So, like the nauseating smell of the melting icing, every new addition to the party further constricted my throat. Every new belly, every new child on that lawn took more air out of me. The sights became too much. The conversations–about the school, about bedtime routines, breastfeeding–circled around me like hyenas. The laughter–fuck, especially when it came from a child–sounded like the ugliest cackling.

I found myself wishing agony on the pregnant women, especially. Stretch marks, saggy breasts, vaginal stretching–things that could lead their husbands to cheat on them. That cheating would mess up their children so bad that they’d become drug addicts and criminals. Yes. That would make me feel better.

The baby in my belly had, at this point, been officially replaced by a solid mass of pure fury. And, unlike my baby, this fury had a heartbeat, which I felt pulsing hard through my body. Unlike my baby, it was twisting, crying, and kicking.

“Are you doing okay?” Trish’s voice came floating above me. Suddenly I was back in the world. Self-conscious again.

“Yeah,” I managed, looking up at her.

“You don’t look it. No offense.”

That’s when I realized how sweaty I was. And also that I was shivering. Like a sick woman.

“This may have been too much too fast. I’m sorry,” she said. She waved me up and then led me back into the house. “Eliza, can you take over for Lillian?” she yelled. Once we were out of the sunlight, and away from all of the bodies and voices, I found myself gasping for breath.

“Do you need to lie down?” she asked me.

“No. Let me do something else,” I pleaded, heaving. I was still holding onto a stupid slice of hope that I could make it back into the group, one day. I needed to prove that I was still mother material–not just another child to be taken care of.

“Okay… well. I just made another cake. Maybe you can help me decorate it.”

I nodded, but cringed a little when we found Kate in the kitchen. I knew her from the group and from Facebook. She was young, Italian looking. Thick eyebrows, small belly.

“Hey! Glad you could make it,” Trish said to her.

Kate nodded. “I was just looking for you,” she said. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Right. How dare you have an ultrasound?” Trish giggled. Her smile then left and she got quiet.

Keep cool, Lillian, I thought. Please.

Kate looked at me. “Is everything okay?” she asked. “You two kinda rushed in here.”

“Uh-huh,” said Trish. “Lillian was just overheating.” In a sense, not a lie.

Kate and I smiled at one another, but as her eyes dug into me, my embarrassment deepened. She was definitely wondering if this had something to do with my miscarriage. There was nothing I could do to stop her from wondering it. I looked away and focused hard on the wall above the stove.

Trish walked to the oven, then, to take out the cake. She moved it from its pan onto an embroidered plate and then placed it on the table.

“It’s strawberry shortcake,” she said. “Just needs some whipped cream and strawberries.”

“Do you need any more help with anything?” asked Kate.

“Don’t worry,” said Trish. “Unless you want to help me clean up.”

Kate did. The women cleaned, chatting, as I sat silently decorating and trying to recover. Now that I felt like I had some breath back in me, my inner fire had, thankfully, blown out. The foundation to it was still there–a gaslight that could easily ignite another flame–but, for now, I was sane enough to question all of those horrible thoughts I’d been having. I held back tears.

“Lillian?” Trish ended up saying. Fuck, she’d noticed. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” I tried to say.

“Do you want to call your husband?”

“No,” I demanded. Too quickly. A tear finally escaped. Child. I was a child. “He’s busy,” I said, in a diluted voice.

“Is that why you didn’t invite him today?” she asked, taking the seat next to me.

“Yes,” I managed, standing up. The cake looked good enough now, but I needed something else to give me an excuse not to look her in the face. I grabbed a knife from the other side of the table and started to cut it up.

“Lillian,” Trish protested, placing a hand on my arm. “If something was going on at home, you could tell me. That’s something we do for women here. We help. You know that.”

I stopped moving but the knife shook hard in my hand. Hers felt like soft tissue. I found myself turning towards her.

“Is it okay if Kate stays?” she asked me, slowly.

I nodded, swallowing some tears and snot. I had to accept it. I was still that sad little girl who just needed some friends.

Kate approached me with softened eyes.

“Sit back down, love,” she told me, placing a hand on my shoulder. “Tell us what’s wrong.”

I nodded again. Sniffing, shaking, I started to sit, and I reached to put down the knife.

“Have a piece of cake,” Trish told me.

“Yeah!” said Kate. “Or- I brought madeleines.”






Pascale Potvin is from Toronto, Canada, and has been writing since childhood. She is currently working on a budding book trilogy. She has also just received her BAH in Stage & Screen Studies from Queen’s University, where she has written a few award-winning short films. Some of her blog pieces can be found at onelitplace.com, where she works as an assistant.








Elegy at the Nursing Home for the Demented

for my grandmother

by Domenic Scopa


Let the condensation blind the window.
Let the bulb burn out.

Let the darkness believe
whatever it wants.

There is nothing, says the darkness,
I can do about it:

Where we go
is where we came from.

So let me spoon you, please.
Kiss the back of your shoulder.

Let come together
our brief shadows.

Let the starlings sing, like life,
until they tire.

Let me lie beside you—




“Fire is the thunderbolt that stirs all things”—Heraclitus


Out of habit you begin to sense the whisper
of fall leaves scraping streets: Burn the past,

and mysteries of loneliness will not concern you,
even as the family congregates for warmth,

and you might dream about the dryness
of the daughter’s down coat and wool socks.

Weigh the worth of bloody deeds impressed on newsprint
resurrecting into ash, their taste and smell,

the lives of lives you wipe out through the night.
I can’t count all the universes that disintegrate

when you lick the air—tongue-strikes quick as lightning—
but eventually your perseverance will be tested by the wind,

the wind that knows sometime you’ll come undone.





Snowflakes punctuate the darkness, punctuate
the run-on sentence of an early morning,

when sunrise insinuates itself on the horizon
like a Polaroid developing.

Somewhere, a driver slams the brakes,
skidding, who knows how far,

and workers, one with salt and sand,
the wind discovering their upturned faces,

continue shoveling the storefronts,
the moment snuffed like a match.

There’s so much noise—the neighbor’s beagle
has already started barking.

And we still wake up to each other,
sleepy, thankful,

perhaps a little button-pushy,
but with age, we get more playful.

Roll over, queen, and tell me
if you think this is a heart murmur.





Domenic Scopa is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2014 recipient of the Robert K. Johnson Poetry Prize and Garvin Tate Merit Scholarship. He holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. His poetry and translations have been featured in The Adirondack Review, Reed Magazine, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, Belleville Park Pages, and many others. He is currently a Lecturer at Plymouth State University and a Writing Center Specialist at New Hampshire Technical Institute. His first collection, The Apathy of Clouds (FutureCycle Press), is forthcoming in 2018. He currently reads manuscripts for Hunger Mountain and is an Associate Editor at Ink Brush Publications.





Truce Poem

by Anthony Isaac Bradley


doggone goddamn
this sundown is yours

right now I want to study my shoestrings
all the way back
to the campfire we pushed together

with YouTube instructions while on
pills and Coca-Cola

dirty from the ingredients
you said we couldn’t agree on anything
but look at us

in a behaved moment
we built something
who cares if it’s temporary





Crush is what to do with girls and other boys. Crush before
taking someone home for a few tragedies, press down
until their bones make room.

Crush is what to trust.
Is the name of a book, the name
of a poem. Realistically, Crush is the name of two, possibly more.

This poem is named Blueprint. Crush,
follow the steps and make diamonds, make like hell-bent teenagers
and Crush close enough to listen,

close enough to hear every muscle pop and Crush
for glitter from a high-rise, confetti
on the ground. Crush on Jessica Glover,
on D. Gilson, on Natalie Byers for days.

Crush talk into rhythm. Crush open mouth into armpit.
Crush but stay on point, now relieve

the pressure. After the excitement comes strawberry jam—lift
for sunlight. Begin Crush where you stand. On the drive
home from St. Louis, Minnesota,

San Francisco. Sketch a life
like one could prepare. Crush a house
on Weller Street, Crush a family pet with a back yard.

A fountain in the driveway. Crush bliss
with impatience but keep safe, because Crush
is the word to drop when there is a need to fall in love but no chance

for a boy with smarts, or a girl with a mean streak. Crush this temporary body
and leave no instructions for the left-behind, the coming lonely.





I never wore my mother’s lingerie
I stole from the neighbor’s wife instead
Plucked a red velvet brazier
I was a boy
Soft from long baths
Pretending the hands weren’t mine
What could happen in another man’s grip
I heard what happened
How a fag was beat to death
Near our busiest highway
Heard he deserved it
I hid my red velvet under the sink
Under the rubber plunger
I kept living
Took a lover
I said no kissing but yes
To the rest
I asked if he liked dress-up
And he said No fems
I fucked him
Pretended his hands were mine
I was delicious
I said I
Said I love you
I wrote for him and about
Made his bed
I was his red velvet
Ruby stockings rolled up and rolled down
Flung myself over him
I hid from all of you
Bred then bored him
I don’t blame him
I knew who I was



Three Extra Dry Martinis in Boston

—with Sexton & Plath


I will say this: I’ve worked to outgrow the kind of boy
who knows every gory detail,
even if their nonsense makes me
feel young. Boys who will lead anyone interested

to the body. On empty farmland, or rolled somewhere
in a ditch—a favorite hangout

for your boy, Death. Anne, would you believe
avoiding this romanticism
gets easier with every man-made wonder?

Hot take: your boy, like the rest of us, same
as an afternoon table for two on the coast,

was a bore. Guilty of legend-building
and conspiring with gods. Butting into every narrative
with a tired agenda and need

for attention. Perhaps you knew, felt sorry
for him and offered a cuddle, like Sylvia did. Does she
know I can take Google for a drive,

find the child’s body
of work? There are no secrets left
since your boy’s CV is public access: Automobile,
alcohol, gravity. Yes, love. Overexposed

on Subreddits, Dark Web. Nothing new
and all the blood looks staged. Your boy is no good
at realism, and I’m hard to convince.

I mean I want to outgrow a boy who lies about dignity

when there’s no evidence. Yet, like you two,
I’m desperately in the entourage.

Memorizing keywords
for every mood that falls, just to remind myself
how going all the way on a livestream

might not garner enough upvotes to make it
worth the trouble. Search Doorknob

plus Tie, Plastic Bag plus
Garden Hose plus the voyeurism
of your goddamn boy.

Choices that either age with me
or against. I don’t look good in purple. I don’t
want to be filling skinny jeans at forty, holding
my ticket for youth’s great closer.

Look, it’s late, and I’m pretend drunk.
Your boy is—again, predictable—out all night,
past my bedtime. Maybe I’m just jealous.
If I could afford a martini in Boston
I would surely order three, throw

my head back for a good pipe cleanse. Honestly,

I’m over it. I went to meet our boy
once, but grew tired on the long walk there.





Anthony Isaac Bradley is an MFA candidate at Texas State University. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle, Cimarron Review, and other journals. He lives with his cat and the ghost of another.





Life Rising

by Colleen M. Farrelly


Half-dead plants grasping
through a broken,
wood-checked screen
to the basic-build
church chair strangled
by fingers
and leaves,
fallen cold and dead,
to the dirt caked
over knotted roots
of the lumbering tree like
the clackity-clack of the track
and catching bridge joints
beyond the sleepless hollow.

Dawn drowns
the split snow.
A lone lily
pokes through
the thistles.



Wildlife Haiku


iguana lazing
in summer sun—a shadow
and a sudden splash

a green flock squawking
soaring chasing and settling
swiftly on phone wires

speckled lizard
scurrying across afternoon
parking lot rivers

ibis creeping low
in spring’s oasis
before jaws snap shut



Art Walk Past


than I had expected,
no pool
reflecting rolling moonlight
as we sit atop the roof
after the resounding
bass readied itself for bed,
the last revelers
drinking in Warhol-esque sketches
and scrambled Mondrian cityscapes—
or the urban Kandi Kids’
lining the siding—
like a childhood chalkscape’s
older cousin—
and slinking into the shadows.

Darkness veils
the pinks and purples,
towards the fence,
a fog furled
over a lone two figures
staring at the sliver of silver
beyond the horizon.



Grandma’s Porch


Bare feet
across grandma’s front porch
with an urgency unique to
abandoning toys and cool-aid
to catch this new play-thing—
green, croaking—on
her porch.





Colleen M. Farrelly is a freelance writer from Miami, FL, whose works have recently appeared in Spank the Carp, The Recusant, and KDNuggets, among others. She is the author of the chapbook, Places and Faces. When she isn’t writing, she is a mathematics researcher and avid swimmer.





A million years

by Fabrice Poussin


I loved you a million years ago or more
my girl, my child, beautiful daughter of the universe
I loved you when I first set eyes on her
blue-eyed in her spring dress of fragrant tomorrows.

I loved you eighteen years ago
my child, my girl, daughter of a wondrous dream
as I adore you today while you walk away
with your own set of everything you are.

I have loved you both since the dawn of days
my child, my girl, woman of an electric life
I will cherish you until all energies perish
and then patiently I will wait for your return.



Half past life


It is late at life
days have gone to bed
under the shroud of light
left behind by a careless father.

A quarter of a time ago
blood flowed warm, thick
carrying a taste of iron and berries
now frozen in cracks in minimalistic crystals.

Too early into another month
the body refuses to chase a soul
emptier like the blinding hour glass
marbles drop in thunderous crashes.

Middle of nevermore thrice again
senses have parted ways onto the dial
making so many hands on the palm of eon
seconds, minutes, hours, and new dimensions.

Darkness is no longer
all stand still in agony
she exhales her very last hopes
it is a moment past death.





They always talked about it with a chuckle;
a victory small and simple, great pride to them.

Occupied, they heard the thunder and whistle of
metal loaded with an explosive chemistry.

Yet, they worked, walked, sowed, and harvested
even when they came, in uniform, wearing double s’s.

Far from the city, free in war, powerful in meekness,
the innocents with rattling machines at a loss.

Families of four, ten and twenty, surrounded by farms,
feeding on idle courage, irony untranslatable.

When they came in pairs, hungry, begging for food,
their copperheads were as noodles in a straw.

Ragged stray puppies, pitiful in a stench of wet fur,
beaten, by a mere refusal in the face of abundance,

they went home to the camp, carrying empty guts,
pained by a hatred not understandable to them,

innocent, working for pennies, on a life borrowed,
stolen by evil, far from love, care, comfort and warmth.

Their years high-jacked in the flower of age, men,
looked with sadness, at these families, temporarily

their prisoners, busy with a meal not to be shared,
conquerors, their only right, not to die just yet,

but for the potato, the leg of lamb, or the apple,
no treasure could be traded, and famished they remained.



In Black and White


The image, odd reflection on faded paper
of a somber gaze, on a day so young yet;
November again, reminder of a birth,
just a toddler, still in monochrome habit.

The market place, desolate, near the sounds
of the same old merry-go-round, sad again;
what are they thinking these deep browns?
Perhaps of the next snapshot a year too soon!

Seven against a gray wall, laughing at the world,
mirror of surroundings so long forgotten,
no color in this domain, no joy in the smile!
Who were they seeing those eyes near tears?

Just black in a suit, and white in the heavens,
he seems to long for the days of freedom,
a happiness in scenes of tones and scents,
where at last, he may dance into the dark.




Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.









by Simon Perchik


These gravestones left stranded
warped from sunrises and drift
–they need paint, tides, a hull

that goes mouth to mouth
the way seagulls come by
just to nest and preen

though death is not like that
it likes to stand and lean
scattering its brilliant feathers

–look up when you open the can
let it wobble, flow into you
till wave after powerful wave

circles as face to face
and your own loses itself
already beginning to harden.





You need more, two sinks
stretching out as constant handfuls
though each arm is lowered

by the darkness you keep at the bottom
–a single cup suddenly harmless
not moving –this rattle you hear

is every child’s first toy
already filled with side to side
that’s not the sound a small stone makes

trying to let go the other, stake out
a cry all its own, fill it
on your forehead without her.





And though this stone is small
it has more than the usual interest
in the dead, waits among tall grasses

and water holes, smells the way dirt
still warms the afternoons
that no longer have a place to stay

–you leave a nothing in the open
letting it darken to remember
where you buried the Earth

as if the sun could not be trusted
to take back in its light
and by yourself turn away.





You read out loud the way this bed
listens for the makeshift seam
loosening each night down the middle

and though there is no sun
you peel off page after page
as if underneath what you hear

are her eyes closing –word by word,
louder and louder –you think it’s air
that’s falling –everything in your hands

is too heavy, becomes a shadow, covers her
with a single finger pointed at the ceiling light
what’s nowhere on the pillow or closer.




Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Osiris Poems, published by box of chalk, 2017. For more information, including free e-books and his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.






(for Emily)

by Susan Richardson


She is arriving at her age with graceful
brushstrokes that follow the curve of
mended wings and resilient backbone.
The years that wore her down are diminished
by a new love that soothes her aches
with the fragrance of safety.
She peels away layers of a cloak,
stitched from threads of self-preservation
to hide the vibrancy of abandon.
Diving into the center of her quickening pulse,
she glories in the textures of feeling alive again.
Paint and ink saturate her fingertips,
offering up images on parchment and flesh,
a spark of rapture alight on storied skin.
Sharpening the robust tones of her voice,
she reclaims the fabric of her words and opens
her eyes to delight in the awakening
contours of the landscape.






She blunders toward me, wearing
her topiary face and a trench coat she stole
from the coat check of an upscale bar.
Searching for Irises and Haystacks,
she slurs her opinion of Impressionism
against echoing marble, her voice
rising with a cadence commanded by tequila.
She stumbles, biting into red parchment,
grunts and crashes into travertine walls.
She can’t feel through the bitterness and the booze.
Her imprint stains my day.




Where Sound Disappears


She has the graceful hands of a dancer
and fingers that clutch her fountain pen
as if it were a weapon, razor sharp
and lethal to the weak minded.
Veiled beneath the heavy cloth of madness,
her language scalds my lips with
maniacal rhythm, sensibilities smoldering
in the wake of her incendiary heartbeat.
She offers me the gift of her wounds and
moves into a world where sound disappears.
She believes she made me up along the way.






The dangerous nectar of brandy dulls
the gaps in my vision, turning
me into something whole and beautiful.
I swim in the smooth burn of baptismal waters.
Fingers, thick from intoxication, glide
across sultry water, linger in anticipation.
I melt into amber and sweltering tiles,
caught beneath the breath of a liquid center.






Mad women and
sane women
all cross their legs.
They long to be touched
in secret places,
kissed hard on the
mouth and adored.
One glance from a pair
of scorching eyes will have
your bones shaking,
inviting the rough
crack of leather.
Obediently, you will
drop to the concrete floor
and lick salt from
behind hot knees.
They will borrow your soul
for just a little while,
and return it intact.
They promise.





Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Los Angeles. She shares a home with an Irishman, 2 pugs and 2 cats. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002, and in addition to poetry, she writes a blog called Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice, Sick Lit Magazine, Amaryllis, The Anapest Journal, and Eunoia Review, with pieces forthcoming in Ink Sweat & Tears.  She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig 2017 Winter Poetry Prize and was featured in the Literary Juice 2018 Q&A Series.






The Tenth Nerve v1

by Deborah Saltman



Three nerves control my eyes
My pupils shrink
In the lightness of your skin
And grow in the darkness of our nites
Take a look if you dare
No need to question the colour of my eyes
They are filled with the calling cards of the seasons
Or does the blue-eyed octopus want to hide behind her ink?

One nerve relays the soupçon of smells
That cross the tendrils of my trunk
Still it is the magnolia that moans a scent
As ephemeral as its Messenger Hermes
Five nerves form the movement of my lips, tongue, words
Yet only one controls the index finger
That types to you

Is that not risky?

But is the vague Vagus – the perfect ten
That can move the four chambers
To heartstop
And now sits behind the drawbridges
We helped each other raise

There are only twelve nerves in the cranium
The last two can make my shoulders shrug
And help me swallow pain

That is why I want to stop at ten


Stop and search


Stop and search my emotions
I gave you reasonable grounds to explore my interior
Do not suspect my engaging in the crime of love or even liking you
Place your hard metal heart against my scarred chest
Hood my lips, cuff my arms, restrain my legs
My spittal is distinctive
You will taste the perfumed bile for centuries

I’m grateful

Wherever you go
My mistress of the inquisition
Will you always remember
Searching the bag of my body
Never asking for my consent
Travelling eternally and internally
On the passport you renewed
After I ran out of time

Handcuffs, leg restraints, batons, pepper taints
Little more than glorified sacks, racks and nick knacks

After all she says
You doctors don’t apologise
When the short sharp needle
Filled with measles enters my buttocks.


The underground


After decades
I think I hear her familiar breathing again
That click of her rusty diaphragm
Wrestling under the diseased heart
Air always struggling to draw in and out
Beyond the cardiac space
No explorer would dare to enter
Or was it just
The conductor’s raspish call
Express stop to exit only?

Pretending to put on the lipstick I never wear
I took a selfie
Just to get a glance of her
There sitting behind me
In the disabled seat

I long for her caved chest to rise up and lay down
Next to me
Deep with laboured inhaling
The rhythm section of her tired ribcage freed
From our past hiccupping
Could we ever breathe the same air again?

My station calls
Now in the long corridor exit to fresh air
Walking over the top of her departing carriage
My tunnelled vision unfolds
If she was the one
I’m glad she didn’t look up





Deborah Saltman is a physician and re-emerging poet living across the hemispheres and the Atlantic currently enjoying her London landing. She has had 6 poems published in reviewed US publications in the last year (one in Poetica, one in Off the Coast, and four in BLAZEVOX. After twenty years of scientific writing, she is enjoying her return to her calling.







by Ricky Garni



They discovered another earth. It’s beautiful and round and fiery orange.
This is good news. Unfortunately, it is quite far away, and not populated
by people you know. In fact, it might not even be populated at all!
Right now scientists are hard at work trying to find out for sure:
Is it populated by people you know? Is it populated at all?
They are building a super powerful telescope to find out.
I say, just use a cheap one from around the house, point it at your heart,
and pull the trigger.




I have a friend who sits on an orange chair
that looks like a whale.
She enjoys sitting in the chair when her friends
call her and ask her what she is doing.
And she says: “I am sitting in my whale chair.”

“Wheelchair?” they ask.
“No, whale chair.”
“No, whale chair.”
“I don’t understand…”
“A wheelchair.”
“Oh! I thought so.”

And then she tells them where she found her
orange wheelchair,

in an old shop on 6th Avenue that sells things
that look like orange whales.




Ricky Garni grew up in Miami and Maine. He works as a graphic designer by day and writes music by night. His latest book, THE PRESSED TABLETS OF DOMINO, will be released in Spring 2018.






by Brad G. Garber



The black bear peered at us, from the edge of the wood
square nose pointed toward the forest fire we were
heading toward, having smelled it washing like ocean tide
up the flanks of a mountain glowing in moonlight.

It was a full moon, orange against a starless night sky
that followed the bear into a copse of trembling aspens
lighting ripened berries like sugar lanterns in the night
the bear’s nimble lips a soft smoke drifting through.

And, on this morning, as smoke descended like wool
the black bear peered at us, passing by like ashen waters
toward uncertain tides and ducked back into the wood
confident in the fruit of the earth and her place in it.




San Francisco Airport


The fog spills over the hills
like frosty butter poured
over boiled shrimp, curled
waterfalling, thick and soft.

This, in the land of bitcoin
wealth erupting up the hillsides
waves of black information
slapping against tender brains.

Around me, fretful travelers
swirling like fog, not noticing
the thick clouds descending
upon a threatened landscape.

This, where the earth aches
to move like a falling tree
uprooting its ageless innocence
laying waste to every excess.

And I wonder where will be
this airport, this place of flight
when the waters rise to meet
a slowly pouring, terrifying sky.




Storm Cycle


There is a storm building

            across an ocean of human heat.

            Take your pick . . .
intolerance, distrust, fear, ignorance, denial:

we don’t like
we don’t listen
we fear
we don’t care
it’s not us.

            The storm surge will kill
its stupid-foot waves

            prejudicial waves
            apathetic swells

            crushing, drowning, wiping
scouring the surface of the earth.

Left . . . a pristine beach, populated
            with hungry birds, winter foam
                        silent sunsets

Until clouds build along the horizon.




Syrian Literature

He was writing poetry
in a waning ray of sunlight
when he was picked off
the roof like a pigeon
by a sniper, his brain
a puff of feathers, floating
with his peaceful words
down to indifferent earth.




Nature on the Back Porch


The red dragonfly, as the hummingbird
has its hunting grounds, this afternoon
darts out to capture swarming midges.

I remedy my insecurities with bourbon
staring at the imperfections of my skin
capturing what I can of confidence.

Like the dragonfly, I return to the spot
where I can scan the killing field, full
of swarming memories and expectations.

Overhead, the hummingbird sucks water
a blooming fuchsia plant a distraction
from what is sustaining and what is not.

The red dragonfly eats its fill and leaves
and the hummingbird goes to its roost
leaving me to rattle the ice cubes in glass.


Brad G. Garber has degrees in biology, chemistry and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, essays and weird stuff in such publications as Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, On the Rusk Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Third Wednesday, Barrow Street, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Five:2:One, Ginosko Journal, Vine Leaves Press, Riverfeet Press, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, Aji Magazine and other quality publications. 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee.









Desert Suite #8: Red Piano in the Desert

by Kimberly White


for E.J.


It is red, because the desert is red with small pianoesque shapes of scorpions,
lavarock concertos stripped to their bones

It is a piano because the keys of the desert pound strings of yucca leaf and
spiderweb, grace notes circle the raptors, trace ochre streams, carve red-vein
strokes of piano wind.  Tiny stones shift themselves in tune with the bars of
desert movement in constant orchestration, vibrating strings of connective
air, footsteps in sync with a jazzbeat heart, beat changing tides ebbing
flowing sunforsaken red

It carries, the hidden notes rustle to the surface, create subliminal bands of
disruption, fan waves of cold and heat, scatter themselves in leaf litter and
decay, die and resurrect before the echo settles backward into rest.



The Blue Dog of Midnight


Clatterdog paws on a kitchen floor
sniff out scraps of night

paws hesitate, then pick up,
follow a twitchy nose along
cupboard borders and pantry doors
and refrigerator floors.  I, the
insomniac in the back bedroom,
sweat through sheets twisted
with the haunted labor of counting
down the night.  The wages of
sleep earn themselves, disrespective
of my circadian plans.

Calloused dog paws scratch the back
door, wanting out, hungry for the
call of the moon.  Sleepwalk
footsteps shuffle his way, blind to
tender toes underfoot.  The sleepwalker
checks her sleep pocket for the gun that
lives only in her dreams.  A dog barks,
her hand opens a door, the dog escapes
to the welcoming moon.  In my sleep,
I hunt, I stalk, my prey recognizes
my gun and flees.  Possibly warned by
the dog

who has padded off to someone
else’s sleepwalk, maybe his own,
or to sniff another kitchen door,
ragged nails click time counting
down another ruthless night in a
wakeful backroom bed.



natural conundrum


If a fat-ass robin
hits a tree and the
poet is not there
to laugh at it, does
it make a sound?

Doesn’t matter.
Coyote will hear it.

he can smell stupid
a mile off.





Kimberly White’s poetry has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Cream City Review, Big Muddy, and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of four chapbooks and two novels. You can find her poetry and collage art on her website, www.purplecouchworks.com, as well as on Facebook and various refrigerator doors.






by Sara Truuvert


If there was a way
To take that face in my hands
And skip over the time in the evening
When my spine slips between metal
And my foot drums faster than rain
When far away fluorescent scatters
Its absence on my fingers
And my eyes sink into my skull
To make room for his

My mind flattens like
Water drops finding flesh
To flow aside for the
Hands and
Lips and
Eyelashes against oak doors
I swallow them like a seed
But its tendrils bore through the back of my face
To bloom into his

If I could keep them from seeping beneath my door
And up the sides of my mattress
I would
I would






like tarpaulin
the tension ‘round my mouth
slips down my left shoulder
and I’m left rather slack jawed
watching pure blue whirl
as we sit and talk in hot water

I watch
as golden squares from condominiums
glide over your nose and forehead
a thousand little acts of coming home
made glorious on your skin

on the street below us
            an old man in a stained white t-shirt
            thrusts scraps of paper at passersby
            blaring at them to believe

            a miniscule woman in a pageboy cap
            gathers recycling into a plastic bag

            a young boy crosses the street alone

up here
suspended in windows
still whirling
you smooth your hair from your ears
and tell me the price of a flight to Boston

and I think that
the spidering thoughts
that tried to drown me all those nights
are cleared with one sweep
of your fingertip






You came through the door in your black fleece sweater and red backpack
(The kind with a nice mesh pocket for a water bottle)
You hug me and I shrink
Because you still smell like seven years old
When I couldn’t fall asleep because I’ll
Miss you if you die, Daddy

I want to sink and collapse
And fold like a paper doll in the rain
Lie quietly with my face in your shoulder
And ask you to remind me
Where my breath has gone

I want to shift
I’m missing a limb in static
But you press sink weigh down on my neck
And my hips
Take me like a throw pillow
That caught your eye on a table at the back
Buy one get one free

Would you call me the names
Our teachers only spelled out in letters
I could not imagine saying your name aloud
In a quiet cushioned office
Making you an incident
A fresh manila file folder
Maybe I’d rather be those names

But now
You sit
Comfortable like a child
Open hands cleans hands
Like a child
I tell you silly playground stories
Because how do you begin to tell
How do you say
How some mother’s son
Gripped and pulled
And here I am finally

And you would never
You would

Never never




Sara Truuvert graduated from Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where she studied English, Drama, and the History and Philosophy of Science. She wrote humour articles for the student newspaper, The Strand, for which she was shortlisted for a John H. McDonald award. Her poetry has appeared in Cadaverine Magazine. Sara is also an actor and screenwriter with a short film in production with Toronto’s Labyrinth Pictures. In her spare time, she runs the web comic Marvin and Pip.






by Ruth Bavetta



I will wake the lilies under
the window. I will bite deeply
into the apple’s defenseless cheek.
And when the man comes in the dark,
I will show him the family
silver’s shining secrets.

I will follow the seagulls over
the waves as they etch the air
with their wings. I will ride
the tide. I will not be safe.
I will not be good. What
kind of love would keep me
withered in the nest?




Curves, but No Edges


When the faint gravity of her puberty pulls
through the family, it clots and breaks.
She curves her mouth into an arc as if tasting
something soft and unexpected,
her tongue sliding forward.

Nothing means what it did before.
Words sling past each other
with centrifugal force. Thoughts
sail like a curve balls,
slamming the windows shut.

She turns away
at the approach of those whose love
has become insufficient. She lives
in her body like music, slightly
out of tune, the melody yet to come.



Elegy for the Three-Cent Stamp


For the postman
with the heavy leather bag,

the house on the hill,
the mailbox hidden in the hedge.

For the new blue Studebaker,
the cheerleader in the knee-length skirt,

the stolen chocolate Cherry-a-let,
the can of Ipana tooth powder.

For the edge of the bed,
the crutch in the garden,

the shiny Schwinn bicycle,
the woman who loved to hike.

For the man in the lab coat,
the swing on the bridge,

the pink-eyed rat,
the three-legged dog.

For the girl with the broken
glasses. Who is she now?






Coyotes in the canyon
yipping like crazy,
Coyotes in the hills, racing
through the brush, coyotes
in the gullies running in a pack.

Neighborhood dogs going nuts.
Dogs behind walls, dogs behind
fences, dogs on decks,
dogs behind glass, barking.

Dogs singing of kibble and Bonz,
of nights spent warm
on the foot of down comforters.

Coyotes crying of hillsides and stones,
the crunch of rabbit bones, wild
nights under the moon.




Before Dementia


The Middle Fork of the Feather River
flows slowly in the summer,
arrives deep and still
at the old swimming hole.
My mother swam there
almost every day. Floated
on her back beneath the trees,
looking up at the sky,
until she fell asleep,
circling slowly
under the pines.




Ruth Bavetta writes at a messy desk overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Her poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, Tar River Review, North American Review and many other journals and anthologies. Her books are Fugitive Pigments (FutureCycle Press, 2013) Embers on the Stairs (Moontide Press, 2014,) Flour Water Salt (FutureCycle Press, 2016.) and No Longer at This Address (Aldritch Books.)  She likes the light on November afternoons, the music of Stravinsky, and the smell of the ocean; she hates pretense, fundamentalism, and sauerkraut.






At Lúpulo’s Tavern

by Sergio A. Ortiz


Soft jazz, hugs, kisses,
promises and fingers intertwined.
Me, a young man afraid of the dark.
You, a man rattled by light. You dragged me
to the back between twilight and twilight.
A waiter arrives, I ask for a hot chocolate,
you order red wine, take off your coat,
put it on the armchair. I lay my hand
on trembling places. Lights lower.
Roof rises. Chair collapses.
Coat falls, the chocolate, the wine.
Outside, the rain. Tourists. Suitcases.
The smell of Burger King.
A poster advertising Cialis.




Sitting on my corpse


I’m picking up
the pieces of my life,

disabled, winged
in agony,

the latent bottom
of my illness.

Bodies like mine
flesh and bones
already ancient.




When the dead talk about sex



trees resurrect from their flesh.
They’re storytellers of clandestine love,
barbs of rivers that penetrate,
and those delivered to the sea.
They meander desires,
pantheons smell of cum.
They evaporate kisses in the
humidity of coffee plantations,
in canyons, and banana fields.
The dead talk about sex
and invent new caresses
on the altars of the dead,
offer flower collars in memoriam
of the pleasures of the phallus.






Sergio A. Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a four-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016 Best of the Net nominee. He won 2nd place in the 2016 Ramón Ataz Annual Poetry Competition sponsored by Alaire publishing house. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FRIGG, Tipton Poetry Journal, Drunk Monkeys, and Bitterzeot Magazine. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.




by Cliff Saunders


Yearning for unity, I whistle at the county fair
at just the right time and the hunt begins

for a bridal kimono. I baffle gulls everywhere
with nursery rhymes. It’s what I do.

For the first time, I need to strike a swimsuit
with a biscuit because I feel alienated,

anxious as a blocked artery. Crying and scared,
I thrash like a fish among rows of crash victims.

I bounce past three sisters beating the street
with Christmas trees but see no clouds

just over the horizon. I topple a barricade
of jellyfish and slip by a little robot

ruined by a mud ball. Along the way,
I collide with echoes of immaculateness.

Such snow and ice I have never seen!
I finally feel like I am alive again, soul

of blue and still in love with the wind.
Am I some rabbit hole? Some pumpkin king?

I’m just elated that great hair blooms
in every sea. As clouds gather, I finish

covering roses with metal whistles.
I rise before the storm gives voice

to its grief and reach for the sacred:
a glass of ice clouded by blue acid.





Tonight, a drum has my name on it,
but is anyone listening?

Who inherits a self that never ends?
I, too, have a real dream

infected with tuberculosis.
It hits me when I go home and try

to sleep with stones on my heart.
I see chimney swifts returning

to lighthouses full of fast learners,
full of divers gobbling up turnovers.

Time arrives to harvest its bright spots,
its earthly campus of root, root, root.

A flutist hits the high notes, thanks to me
and my generation of painful goodbyes,

of shirtless young cousins.
I’m not one to let the grass grow

on the moon, especially in the evening.
Moral blinders still in place, I lift my dog

to find his soul wrapped like a piece
of birthday cake on the catwalk.

Better to tolerate clutter than stifle
freedom, it’s as simple as that!





I hate my grass, and it hates me
more than a pink skirt on a witch.

How can I get a deeper shade of blue
in my lawn? I’m just totally lost.

The lizard in the house has created
a conspiracy against me.

The shuddering beast wakes me
with his big mouth while pondering

an afternoon of drift and mastery.
As the lizard lands with a thud

on the floor, I pursue a giant snail
around the edge of the porch,

but my heart is driving me nuts,
and I carve it up into toothpicks.

This is my home — I could turn
into an old putter, an abused

French mastiff, a hard autumn,
a newly opened book.

For a sweet few hours, I probe
the batting cage of the self

with a restless intellect, then
ride off into the real world

on a bicycle wrapped in mink.
Just doing my job, man.




Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in Serving House Journal, Five 2 One, The Big Windows Review, Rumble Fish Quarterly, and Whale Road Review. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he works as a freelance writer.




American Spirits

by Joe Gianotti



Do you live in a 600-square-foot home
in the smaller town ten miles south
of the small town, where you grew up?
How many children have you had
since you declared you would never have children?

Does your house need a new roof?
Do the windows leak heat?
Does the hot water run out too soon?
Do you have a fenced in backyard,
where cats come and go
like the transient you said you’d be?
Did you get that Indiana tattoo on your left thigh,
the one with the heart in the state,
meant to remind you of the roots
you’d never return to?

How much do you hate the man you’re with?
How much do you already hate the next man you’ll be with?
How much do you hate yourself and the life you’ve built?

How often do you think of the museum life
your old anthropologist self could have lived?
Brushing dirt from artifacts instead of dust from bookshelves.




Haute Couture


The Christmas card’s not right.
I got a balding headshot of the Senator
instead of the family photo.
What happened to the embellished wife,
the two appliqué biological children,
the flanking gilded labradoodles,
the tailor made adopted Downs baby
that would push his blue election
over the red hump?
Where are the green and white sweaters
each of them would wear in front of their
stitched Lockerbie Square fireplace?

She crushed them with judgment.
When she told me
that age one Lindsay’s left leg
would always thread out
like a brocaded baby from an O’Connor story,
she made sure to say
that cheerleading was out of the future.

She approved of the Senator’s robust porn portfolio,
adding a ruched Sasha Gray here
and a tucked Jenna Jameson there.
Have a drink
or two or three,
and go to as many Cubs games as you can.

Haute Couture begins so beautifully,
but in families like the Senator’s,
the lace gets sold on Ebay,
piece by piece.





Joe Gianotti grew up in Whiting, Indiana, an industrial city five minutes from Chicago. He currently teaches English at Lowell High School. He is a proud contributor to Volume II of This is Poetry: The Midwest Poets. Among other poets, he represented Northwest Indiana in the 2014 Five Corners Poetry Readings. His work has been published in Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Steam Ticket: A Third Coast Review, The Tipton Poetry Journal, This, Yes Poetry, and other places. You can follow him on Twitter at @jgianotti10.





Try Not

by Garth Pavell


Try not to eat meat on the Chinese New Year
my girlfriend teased, egging on my fragile new
vegetarianism poking out like a pot-bellied silhouette
of a newborn leaf quivering in a cage-free wind.

I arrived at Wongs restaurant where her family occupied
four round red quadrants: immigrants and first generation
Americans mostly at the children’s table, which is where
we sat since chairs were scarce in the old country.

Her century-old grandmother crooned when the piglets
were brought out, eyeless faces charred to horrific perfection.
One teen saw videos online about the horrors of factory farming
so he supported (in theory for now) boycotting corporatized cattle.

I told him most people don’t realize protein-packed edible art
remains unknitted in the patchwork of our veggie sweater. I said
gold-leafed beechnuts and rosy-hued crabapples fall like confetti
as we breed and feed livestock under wrinkled rotting sunsets.

But then the Mongolian beef arrived with mashed plums and garlic.
I chewed the boneless flesh realizing it was seasoning that I craved.
I drank cold-hearted Tsingtao beer and picked at the seared scallions
until a plate of sliced oranges arrived to purify the cow’s candied blood.




The World Is Missing


I can see it in the faces of empty-headed subways at midnight or when the pavement follows me to the undiagnosed part of town. I can feel it while looking through my cross-eyed window at the rain in the alley lit by a dazed streetlamp where a homeless poet panhandles for stamps to send a letter back in time. He once told me the moon’s chipped tooth smiles upon a midwest wine-colored river where he fished as a boy and later got lucky before eventually hitching his way across the vascular highway.

The sugar-junky yuppie across the hall is perennially out of milk, bread, toilet paper and cigarettes but she doesn’t mind asking as long as snickerdoodle cookies bake into the counterclockwise ruminations of her brain. When we cram conversation in the elevator, she directs the naked truth like a go-go dancer that can’t be touched. I once kissed her sugarcoated lips; it was Friday and we were blowing off a week of words when the power went out. We opened our doors and made our candlelit bodies into personified furniture.




Looking Up


the other day I read how our Milky Way is destined to collide
with the all-night party permeating through the Andromeda galaxy

which gives one’s family tree a future forest of speculative poets
tinsel to testify that we’re on track for something infinitely touchable

surely you’ve heard between slutting in front of social media’s mirror
as the evolution of revolution bloodlessly streams captured kings

into soon to be corporatized countries coming in for a huddle
like fish must feel in depths we can only perceive by looking up





Garth Pavell writes stories, poems and songs. His writing most recently appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Main Street Rag and Mudfish. Garth works for an international animal welfare nonprofit in New York City.





Random Sound Bytes

by Lillian Hara


Holy Mother Mary
is not
the only woman
God screwed

It’s risky to live
In the corridors of life
Spirits lurk there
encouraging surrender
to distressing acts

Editing the Primordial Mystery
we’re quite confident
it’s we who created The Story
But I’m mindful it may all be
a roll of the dice

Last month was eventful:
I healed a grandchild
unhooked from my daughters
consoled my analyst
saved my marriage
and wrote a poem

When Jewish women
spin with wit
follow the thread:
it’s tinged with irony

Coming to terms with mortality
Is less thorny than acknowledging
greatness is not in the cards

Authenticity is the frame
that begs “truth” to hang
without quote marks

Human connections endure
when the partners evolve
a set of modest expectations
It’s defined as “compatibility”

Some poems are short because
they’re fearful of going on
Others – the scared few are brief
because they’re able to keep secrets

I’m not up on herons, hawks
or meadowlarks but I do know
the haunted old eyes
of the boy with missing front teeth
punched out by his father

Countless numbers of women
spend infinite numbers of hours
on mind-numbing tasks
They lose valuable time
because they don’t have a wife

Is it in the realm of possibility
to write a novel
fall in love
cure the cancer
bear a child
run a marathon
sculpt a poem
without a Holy Day of Rest?

Among my mother’s talents were
her homilies, often employed
to mutually rich advantage:
“Take better care of Mother Earth
or your poems will haunt you”

Poetry inhabits
a killing ground
pulling, tugging, ravaging – second only
to lung disease

There are images that persist a lifetime
the woman’s gown is electric blue
the man’s hooded eyes flood with desire
The vision haunts the decades

Octogenarians , nonagenarians
know they will not outrun death
Against all odds, the flame endures
something feeds the fire

Poets with cascading black ringlets
or silky blond locks perplex me
they appear to lack authenticity
Close-cropped or bald-headed
moon-faced prophets suit me fine

To doubt is
to make a stab
at the truth
When you stab
you shed blood
At times, it may be
the only way

When the fledgling Supreme Sorcerer
meets up with the Empathetic Caregiver
the dynamic is the predicament:
the mother-daughter dilemma

My literary agent tells me
poetry may be limiting, Memoirs
are flying off the shelves, she says
especially if you fucked celebrities

Q. Do you believe in God or what?
A. Well, I think there is a Universal Elemen—
Q. – Aaaah, you’re a chicken agnostic or – an atheist?
A. No, just chicken

What if Abraham, Isaac and Yahweh
were instead, all women
would the elements of
the crisis remain the same?
No way

Rumi said maybe God
is the impulse to laugh,
perhaps we are the joke
or it may simply be
a nerve signal
creating a sound



Peaceful Woman … Mother to Violence


The events of her life prompted the question
is death ever “The Distinguished Thing”*
It was so for her aged in-laws until their son
fell from the mountain. In their life plan
death was long established at a clear site
clear because one had a torn heart valve
the other boldly suffered varied octogenarian
closing stages; for both, it suited the order
of things. But the night their son died
they rallied against God, no one other

It was their son she had proposed sparking
the lively decades before he climbed the mountain
The pitons held until the summit; he slipped on ice
was gone. He frequently had said he cared less
how long he lived than how short he died
Snow, ice, majestic peaks – Hedda Gabler
would’ve found his death “beautiful”

That night one mourner fixed his grief on a portrait
above the mantel: a copy of Michelangelo’s Jeremiah
“A resemblance beyond a doubt,” he said, it was surely
the dead man’s father. A surge of laughter moved her
into a far corner of the room, ever mindful that her
heaving shoulders gave the image of a weeping widow
She heard the mourners: “a man utterly without cant…”
“keen to explore, question everything on earth…”
“He was the most guileless, the least vindictive of anyone…”

Knowing loss would distill the last into rectitude and roses
she conceded to a complex of thorns: his rage fierce, unbidden
its source in all the Bibles, its fountainhead Jehovah
It moved him to anger, to sorrow for the hungers of the world

Late one night, she dared to look into the abyss
She stuffed bedclothes down her throat gagging the horror
All three, mother and children shunned his funeral:
“he’s not in a hole in the ground, he’s here with us,” she said,
“forever.” Her daughters echoed without comprehension,
“here with us,” the years passed, they failed to find him.

Her two daughters married. Defying probability
both husbands died by suicide – one by immolation
An artist who tinted the world but couldn’t get it right
His wife held watch until the final breath of the charred body

The other husband, part mystic, all gentle spirit
dubbed himself her son-out-law. When his wife left
he drove a knife into his heart – violence learned in Vietnam
The three widows went to his house searching for a clue:
on his kitchen wall he had painted a rainbow; on the bedroom
floor, the mattress had an ineffaceable bloodstain

One daughter proposed they alter history: reject widowhood
claim divorce. In their finest family tradition, mirth damped
down despair, their laughter splashed across “The Days of
(their) Lives”

In time the scenario was perfected, love came to their pocked terrain
For all three it was welcomed: mother, daughters, peacefulwomen
they asked, they answered: Why us … Why not


*”Here it is at last, ‘The Distinguished Thing’”
— Henry James on his deathbed



Rilke and I


I sift the colors of the Poet
The Mystery of the word
winds with the simple stealth
of a rivulet
past my open hand
around my heel
to etch a print in the stone

The Poet wakes me
into pools of surprise
A stone drops rippling
a primal laugh
It lances my mouth
halts at my eyes healing





Lillian Hara is a poet and playwright. Her current collection of poems, Peaceful Woman … Mother to Violence, is a chronicle of loss and grief and renewal. Her work has been published in the University of California, Riverside periodical, Mosaic, and in Poetry/L.A. She has read her poems for the public at Mount St. Mary’s College, Women Writers West, George Sands Bookstore and the California Rehabilitation Center, a women’s prison. A member of the Dramatists Guild, Hara’s plays have been produced at the University of California, Riverside; Los Angeles Theater Center; Oxford Theater; The Jewel Box Theater; East West Players; and the New Playwrights’ Theater in Ashland, Oregon.



by Kristen Hoggatt-Abader


for Gabrielle Giffords


Of the five beds in the ICU
the only thing moving
was the damaged brain


I was of two brains
wasn’t I?
One of them was indisposed
I rose to the ceiling
and gazed at the damage below me


The pressure gauge needle aimed at red
and the top doc said Ah
That’s why the skin puffs out under the eyes
That’s the brain swell
indiscriminate in cases of TBI
Traumatic Brain Injury
The mother calls a priest
The father calls his lawyer friends
The sister stares at the fire extinguisher propped in the corner
seething at its red


A nurse and a doctor become one
tending the wet organ
A nurse and a doctor and a damaged brain
become one
late into the night
the doctor the brain’s borrowed pulse
the nurse its hand that sets the bone


I don’t know which to prefer
the beauty of the hospital’s silence at midnight
or the beauty of the hospital at midnight
when a rolling stretcher breaks its hum


This is not woodshop but the same principles apply
as a drill removes a piece of skull
Bits of bone drop to the floor
like irrational wooden dowels
One doc says Hold it steady
The cynic Watch your thumb


The brain rules the body
so when it’s away the body rebels
collapsed lungs broken jaw
extra bone growth in the knee
A hole in the neck helps it breathe


The damaged brain can’t signal the tongue to speak
The tongue is not damaged but it too feels the bruise


When nobody’s listening the damaged brain says


Even when the brain understands the words
double vision won’t let it read
Double vision is like having floaters in the eye
that are patterned to the scene


O skinny LPNs in your droopy scrubs
you loathe rolling over the body
to secure the piss pot under its bum
Celebrate that the brain is coming
the damaged brain!


I know numbers colors A through Z
the vocab of being
ten years old
I know I’m eighteen
I know chicken licked off the wing
but the damaged brain wants cinnamon and cumin seed
a fat purple crayon to color outside the lines


It was winter well into March
bone cold but no layer of white
softening the severe rocks on the horizon
The damaged brain hid behind a skull
shaved and scarred by a nonnative tribe

I am still a brain
knotted and crossed
by grooves of wisdom
that made the scalpel pause

Damage rocked through the brain like cat yowls
through the alley way that never


Vocabulary Lessons


Lesson 1—“Stress”

“What’s the meaning, haboob,
in English?”

‘Dust storm.’”

“This ‘dust storm’ on your face
for two month.”

“Oh, you mean
‘pimple.’ “Haboob
can also mean ‘pimple.’”

“This ‘bimbel’ in your face
for two month.”

“This ‘pimple’ has been
on my face for two months—
I know. It’s stress.”

Yani eh, ‘stress?’”

“‘Stress,’ like when you’re scared
for no good reason.”

“No, no ‘stress.’
From the wedding party—
guests give you hasad.”

“The evil eye?!”

Ah walahi!
Because you beautiful.
We have people this way in Egypt.
Guests also give you ‘chress.’”

“No, it’s ‘stress.’”

“What’s the meaning,
‘stress’? Khaifa men eh?

“I’m not scared of anything,
really, just of bad carbs
and the imminent rebellion
of those tiny dogs
that women tote in their handbags.”

“Nermeen doesn’t make a baby.
She angry with her husband.”

“They’ve only been married
for two months!”

Yani eh?

Yani, they need
more time.”





Lesson 2—“Mayonnaise”

“The girl in the taqueria is understanding

“Really? How do you know?”

“I say ‘pescado burrito’ in Arabic
and I get pescado burrito.”

“What’s ‘pescado burrito’ in Arabic?”

“‘Pescado burrito.’”

“And she understood that?”

“‘Kamen’ in Arabic is
‘tambien’ in Spanish.”

“That’s cool!”

“It is same, no, close—
what I say?

“It is ‘similar.’”

“It is ‘similar.’
Do you want some
‘pescado burrito?’”

“No thanks, I don’t eat mayonnaise.”

“What’s the meaning,

“ ‘Mayonnaise’—that
oily white stuff.”

“Why? It is good!
Yani eh, ta’m?


“Good flavor,

“What do you mean, ‘easy?’”

“This ‘easy.’ Put it on
and make stuff better.”

Lesson 3—“Forbidden”

“Don’t tell your friends
that we find this in the street.”


“Because, it’s haram.”

“But I cleaned them!”

“Still, haram.”


“Because they’re coming from the street!”

“But I cleaned them!”

“You don’t listen:

Lesson 4—“Forbidden”

“Gamal, you really should stop calling people

“But they are fat.”

“But people don’t say so here.
It’s considered rude.”

“What’s the meaning,

“You know, I don’t remember.
Mish qwais.”

“Like haram?”

“Yes, exactly like haram.”

Lesson 5—“A little bit”

“Can you help me?”

“What you need?”

“I’m trying to translate this poem.
What’s this mean, nabiyeth?

“No, listen: nabithu.”


“No, nabithu. It means like
‘a little bit.’”

“But the dictionary
says it means ‘wine.’”

“Yes, it does.”

“It means both?”


“But the dictionary—”

“Look Kris,
this book is full
of paper.”

Lesson 6—“Meaning”

“I need something to give
the poem more meaning.”

“What’s the meaning,

“You know what it means!”

“Yes, but I think it means
something different
to you.”

Lesson 7—“My love”



“I read your poem!”

“Really? Do you like it?”


“Can you understand it?”

“Only a little bit.”

“What part do you understand?”

“I told you not to tell your friends
that we found those things in the street.”

“I didn’t tell my friends.”

“You wrote a poem about it!”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. Listen—
‘Don’t tell your friends
that we find this in the street.’
It’s right here!”

“Habiby, that poem’s about us.”





Kristen Hoggatt’s chapbook of poems, ARAB WINTER, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. In addition to previously appearing in The Writing Disorder, her poems have been published in journals including The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Ledge Magazine, Nimrod International, and The Smart Set, where she was also the “Ask a Poet” advice columnist from 2008-2011. She is currently a Lecturer in composition at the University of Arizona in Tucson.