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FEVER DREAM

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.

 

 

FREEDOM WARRIOR

 

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!

 

 

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE

 

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.

 

 

BIO

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

BIO

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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

BIO

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.

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

BIO

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.

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Damage

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
pulsing

.

When nobody’s listening the damaged brain says
NIPPLE

.

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
stop


 

Vocabulary Lessons

 

Lesson 1—“Stress”

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

Haboob?
‘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.”

“Why?”

“Stress.”

“‘Stress?’”

“‘Stress.”’

Lesson 2—“Mayonnaise”

“The girl in the taqueria is understanding
Arabic.”

“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,
‘mayohnees?’”

“ ‘Mayonnaise’—that
oily white stuff.”

“Why? It is good!
Yani eh, ta’m?

“Flavor.”

“Good flavor,
‘mayohnees.’
Easy.”

“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.”

“Why?”

“Because, it’s haram.”

“But I cleaned them!”

“Still, haram.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re coming from the street!”

“But I cleaned them!”

“You don’t listen:
haram.”

Lesson 4—“Forbidden”

“Gamal, you really should stop calling people
fat.”

“But they are fat.”

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

“What’s the meaning,
‘rude?’”

“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.”

“Nabidu?”

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

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

“Yes, it does.”

“It means both?”

“Yes.”

“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,
‘meaning?’”

“You know what it means!”

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

Lesson 7—“My love”

“Kris!”

“What?”

“I read your poem!”

“Really? Do you like it?”

“Yeah.”

“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.”

 

 

 

BIO

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.

 

 

 

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Margarita Serafimova

 

 

 

The crowns of people were gliding,
lighted by their mortality.
I hadn’t anything but the gaze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The eyes are focused there,
and then, after a time, they look elsewhere.
Nothing can combat time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tulip has created red honey
of its inner sun.
The blood of smell is warm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My life, my life,
you have a mind of your own.
While you live me, you remain distinct.

 

 

 

BIO

Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal International Poetry Prize 2017. She has two collections in Bulgarian: Animals and Other Gods (2016) and Demons and World (2017). Her work is forthcoming in Agenda, Trafika Europe, The Journal, Waxwing, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Futures Trading, Poetic Diversity, TAYO, The Punch, Aaduna, Three Drops from a Cauldron, The Transnational, Sea Foam Mag, SurVision, and has appeared in London Grip New Poetry, A-Minor, Minor Literatures, Noble / Gas, The Birds We Piled Loosely, Obra / Artifact, Ginosko, Dark Matter, Window Quarterly / Patient Sounds, Peacock Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Wild Word, Plum Tree Tavern, MOON Magazine, Outlaw Poetry, In Between Hangovers, MockingHeart Review, Renegade Rant and Rave, Tales From The Forest, Misty Mountain Review, Outsider Poetry, Heavy Athletics, The Voices Project, and Cent. Some of her work can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/MargaritaISerafimova/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel.

 

 

 

 

 

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CHARLESTON

by Lana Bella

 

In Charleston, South Carolina,
there is a word that means
the rending from inertia
into the unbodied acreages of
an indigo past where ancient feet
take to running, as the hills warm
with red and the westerly dust
thrusts under the Carolinians’
lament. One could always feel
the idle precision of the heavy
lidded eyes of the townsfolk,
like a trail of cigarette smokes
filling their grapevine with words
they could only whisper behind
cupped hands.

An affluent town like this one,
thickly dank in vanity and
domed sight-line, doesn’t always
have a freight train cutting
through the bustling miles of
history. Still, time hangs over,
new prospects hum with
the dichotomy of all the old
obsolescence.

Tonight, the dead wakes to roam
without their bleached white
bones, in a world where the dark
is consumed by lark sparrows
and Brewer’s blackbirds fighting
for space, with the operatic
passion of Porgy and Bess
drapes like damp laundry over
the raised wall of Folly Beach,
while the moon pours more wine
over the earth and sings low
James Taylor’s Carolina in My Mind.

 

 

BECAUSE I KNEW YOUR FACE INSIDE THE EYE OF A VINTAGE CAMERA

 

A path to somewhere not here,
you pooled in hollow through film
of my vintage camera, a glowing
wyrm spun and interwove, raised
up the mounds of sand, shifting,
always shifting, cast me finally
over the spines of sun. I was inert,
orchard-lit with breaths of baying
horses, where you halted letting
in discord, immune to my concert
of shoulders above ribs, spilling
of bones refused to keep. But still
I coiled, shadows lie, imagining you
smooth saline held in my invisible
depth-strokes, fluttering gradations
from periphery to bitten shins, as
you broke pale into the embrace of
vines, sent buds to sheath of red.

 

 

UNDERWATER LAKE

 

Knife-palette trees touched fingers
to midnight, and how the cold
hurt you into a break like throbbing.
A collection of breaths closed in
on the pour of sky, your mouth, red,
agilely lithe, laughed away the firs
risen tall on algal blooms, where
bodies of birds laced through with
a continent of shadows. Already you
were bent with nightshade and fox-
glove, where the slightest tremors
may pitch you down the underwater
lake, around which the fossilized
bones of unnamed fishes silver
the currents in slime-spotted hymns.

 

 

 

BIO

A three-time Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, & Bettering American Poetry nominee, Lana Bella is an author of three chapbooks: Under My Dark (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2016), Adagio (Finishing Line Press, 2016), and Dear Suki: Letters (Platypus 2412 Mini Chapbook Series, 2016). She has had poetry and fiction featured in over 400 journals including, Acentos Review, Comstock Review, Expound, EVENT, Ilanot Review, and Notre Dame Review, among others. She also has work forthcoming in Aeolian Harp Anthology, Volume 3. Lana resides in the US and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam, where she is a mom of two far-too-clever, frolicsome imps. Her work can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/Lana-Bella-789916711141831/

 

 

 

 

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Legacy

by Elizabeth Bolton

 

Green tears fall soft
Filth raked through thinning hair, what’s left
Plastered to the skull of the meek

The well wounded atop a glorious black nylon pyramid
Shorn by blades in want of new ways to be known
With a cool-fuzzed back of the neck.

Green tears lie cupped
Leather crushed in a hand
Small, fleshy, weak as a cherub’s

Squeezed to a paste and brought to the nose.
Pungent green Death; who knew of its savory spice
Until now?


 

Picnic

 

Winter’s knife won’t cut anymore. It bends, frustrates
Against paper plate against checked cloth
On top of grass abuzz and itching

Its mud-scalp sticks and peels, sticks and peels
Beneath the lush wet earth, burgeoning.
Ground drunk off winter lolls fat with it, belly up.

Winter tucks its useless blade beneath a napkin, decides
On bare hands, favors the sauced meal over dry crackers
Comforting only because we’ve seen it before

Every year the burying of instruments in napkins
The plastic clacks and snaps.
Livers thoroughly poisoned

We wriggle our fingers with greed.


 

The Thing That Laughs

 

The driest of horrors
Screeched through leathery throats

And the warmest wettest of murders
Thrown from twisted bellies

Are laughable. Laughable.

It laughs
As it watches one of us shout a great big word out into air
And the rest jostle bridesmaid-like for it.

It laughs
When it sees us stutter, slip and splat
Accidental comedians.

It laughs like the great big rumbling body of parents at a school play
A black and twinkling mass that waits out the years
Till it seems near well enough understood that down
After down

Is up.

 

 

 

BIO

Elizabeth Bolton is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto where she studies writing and its effects on the mind. In addition to poetry, she writes narrative nonfiction, though in truth she finds genre distinctions rather meaningless.

 

 

 

 

0

My Grandfather’s Piano

by Keiona Wallace

 

 

Grandfather played piano for me,
his hands like bruised peaches.
Withered fingers whispering to keys
as they’d stick to his frail skin.
He’d sit on unbalanced mahogany and dissolve
into dusted keys, each note a wave–
Crescendo of dysfunction crashing
into my hands– I dipped them into deep
blue and squeezed at strings
mallets tiptoed on tightrope stretched
in reddened palms. I’d listen to
thick wobbly notes bounce in an earthquake of echoes
from pastel walls and flimsy
liquor cabinet.

He sang about man’s desire, how one day, it will
wrap me in shredded sheet
music and leach onto
graveled skin until sad melodies sink
inside constricted lungs, he said
that I will be softened, withered,
and drained from love.

His tired fingers rest on hungry keys ready
to pry open aching bones
slumped over, shriveled, he only hums,
letting dark circles rummage
under sore eyes–
So I press down, feed these starved keys
and his sympathetic hands guide mine over
this lilac wave of sounds so sacred
and I smile because he is no longer drowning.

 

 

Aged Whiskey with Honey Colored Legs

 

Wasted woman lays
tipsy a trance.
My empty flask dangles in tattered coat pocket–
remnants of lazy bootleg liquor
squeeze, scratch, peel at my tongue.
Her bleached hair clamped between fingers covered
in last night’s bloody knuckles,
oily curls leave stains on pruned skin
as squashed cigarette butts burn rustic ashtrays.

Her bright beady eyes are gray smoke clouds,
her slim figure wrapped in midnight blue dress
skin tight– honey colored legs exposed.
unlike my wife who sits late by kindling fire braiding
autumn bows into my daughter’s charcoal colored hair.
pale fingers trace the petals of her rose like cheeks
as my wife murmurs to her that I’ll be home soon.
Soon enough to consume cold medium rare steak,
tuck her into thick princess comforter and
read blurry words scattered– dancing in book about
a prince who will always be there.
I hope he is there.

I penetrate her cracked layers,
squeeze inner thighs, rub skin raw,
kiss my way up to her bursting lips.
with my hand gripped around wrist
she lays there– shaking off parts of me,
barbaric smoke entangles with her lungs–
slight burns choke deep in throat from
aged whiskey and dirt flavored cigars.
I dream of dust clouds tasting of iron roads
and discarded nicotine patches,
littered with illegal A1 firebombs and full
glasses by empty
bar stools, waiting for me.

 

 

January 11th, Suffocating

 

1. Cherry Blossoms

On Sundays we walked
staring up at looming
cherry blossoms dangling towards the earth
caress smooth petals slow,
withering between my clammy fingers,
I hold them out to her.
She smiled at my offer
and tried to explain to me what life tastes like,

I said with baby cheeks, it’s warm vanilla,
cool lemonade during sticky summers
condensation trickling down the side of glass.
She hesitates,
“Only on your brightest days.”
It might taste like caked mud clogging, being
plastered in my throat,
or the thousand butterflies I swallowed in a single gulp,
and on those days,
she says it might hurt to breathe.

I lay on her chest, listening to her steady heartbeat, smothering
myself in the rich smell of her
coconut skin– Japanese cherry blossom perfume.
She squeezed my hand, spreading
wrapping me in a love so large she
can’t breathe.

2. Craving

Her ashes smell like a hospital room
filled with empty beds and smeared lifelines.
like automatic doors, syringes spill over with insulin
pulsing– 50 units.

The breaths she inhales don’t belong to her.
they are loans from bellowing monitors,
deconstruct bones that deteriorate,
pinch at flaking insides– unconscious.

I wondered if it all hurt.
the blood rippling, erupting, filling her skull
Thick staples holding together plates of skin
and memories.
My mother’s fingers so numb to pain
the diabetic test strips don’t hurt anymore.
Does she feel the insulin shot I was taught
how to penetrate through leathery stomach?
Does she remember the plastic tube nestled
down in her throat?

The sun shines,
breaks through cherry blossom petals
and I reach for them,
thin branches
and crisp bark, holding
frail petals between my fingers
I hear her laughter, imagine eyes a deep brown–
they resemble mine, but hers told deeper stories
I memorized her face, watched lips move, but
I could not remember the sound
of my mother’s voice.

 

 

BIO

Keiona Wallace is a senior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts studying in creative writing. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida, working as the Print Editor for her school newspaper, The Artisan. Keiona wants to pursue writing in the future and hopefully work in journalism and print. She enjoys using poetry as an outlet for her overactive mind, questioning everything that comes in view. Poetry allows her to get in touch with all her emotions and deeply explore her feelings. She’s very charismatic and loves helping in any way she can, making any kind of detail impactful.

 

 

 

0

Where It Can Be Written

by Glenn Ingersoll

 

 

it was late but it was getting earlier
the earlier it got the more I had to fart
I was alone with the regal bubble
surely I was dreaming
I have no luck in dreaming
I had another bad idea which was the same one
my cat was snoring
I can’t sleep when my cat is snoring
I took medicine to go with the pain
listen – my intestines are singing
they don’t know how to sing
I know how to sing the wrong way
I played with the bad idea as if it were fun
it could get funner
my cat is my friend but is he, really
there’s a psychological term useful here
this is not a good position
my arm’s gone to sleep
congratulations, arm
fuck you, God! – I heard the Christian say
all the books are curses and nails
and pounded blood
only children are paper
the rest of us are bad ideas
there are places on which bad ideas can be scratched
but of all talking we need to claw
let’s not talk about the available skin
let’s talk up our divinatory alleys
there’s one down the center of the room
and a cat
another cat, seeing I’m sitting up
has come too

 

 

333

 

awake at 3:33 a.m.
what do you know

was reading a book of drug experiences
mostly psychedelics
learning experiences, some mystic

I hear the cats playing upstairs
rambunctious!
knocking something around

I pick up the flashlight by my bed
tiptoe after its circle

as I crest the top step
I hear a scramble to the back room
the cat flap’s slap

I open the human door and play
my light across the porch until two circles gleam back
from a broad band of black above a
sharp gray snout and a little growl

the bathroom linoleum slippery
the kibble dish empty
the water used to rinse a paw not clean

K, who’s followed me up, blocks the flap
with a bucket full of cat litter
was it a small raccoon? he asks

I say it was

the two orangies curl up by me
the black tabby checks in

I go back to reading
more on the drugs
some poetry

 

 

Mr. Smith

 

white? chapped-lips white
and folded and folded and folded
tight as a bud

or mouth sucking a secret like a hard mint
if I hold the paper by two corners
the letter curls, a giant petal

but if I bend it back, change
the direction of the creases
find words like a dusting of pollen

my fingers the thighs of honeybees
but this is a sore blossom
it doesn’t know how sweet it is

how sweet like a mouth
biting its lips to stifle
what is not unconscious on the tongue

no, it is not a mouth I press open
to words smeared slightly by movement
but what got said to a page to me

printed atop a rose bows
also just beginning to open
tipped toward one looking up

 

 

 

BIO

Glenn Ingersoll works for the Berkeley Public Library where he hosts Clearly Meant, a thrice-yearly reading & interview series. He has two chapbooks: City Walks (broken boulder) and Fact (Avantacular). He keeps two blogs: LoveSettlement and Dare I Read. Recent work has appeared in Poetry East, Askew, Futures Trading, and BlazeVOX.

 

 

 

 

 

0

de Kooning’s Women

by Steven Ratiner

 

 

pink black and azure smear maw leer
smile puce-and-seasick-green come
hither gesture neck breast belly sex
swell squeal enveloping ochre and gun-
metal-gray pubic tantric flesh eruption
I stare and some naked horror in me wants
to kiss embrace submit to her engulfing
hunger but I fight the urge thought
surging in the brain insisting aloud
lover lover lover lover and beating back
that forbidden that breathy raw-nerve slip
of the tongue between pressed lips:
mother.

 

 

The Sixties

 

“I never do this” she gasped – beginning
to buck, biting at my neck – “two men.”
Looking around in the dark, wondering
what she meant: two in one week?
In one night? Me and the man I might
become? Me and the dead beloved
she partnered with wherever she went?
Waves breaking on moonless Pescadero.
Black sand scouring the skin. Aching
at the outset, still aching at the end – we
hungry, heedless un-knowable men.

 

 

Her Lament

 

he fucks like he’s trying to tear
the skin from my bones or to climb
the hell out from his own animal
guttural bountiful pitiful as if I
were finally the woman who could
pluck the black thorn from his
weathered heart flailing gasping
his cry coming from my mouth
my tears from his eyes until every
damned thing comes undone as if
he wants me to mother him back
into oblivion and gathering him up
in aching arms easing down and
rising up believe me baby if I
could’ve I would

 

 

Morning

 

Black tide recedes.
Two nestled oysters.
The shovelful the rust-
nicked edge of a knife blade
prying just a
crack salt light flicker
of morning: my eyes
squint open dream brine
draining away along with
the last ferric taste of you.
Blue distance.
Stranded the love-
stung brain commands:
begin
again.

 

 

She Told Me Love

 

She told me love was
a fishhook, the steel-barbed
secret under slack skin so that

you won’t feel the strike until
after you’ve swallowed, knowing
that very instant you’ll be

swallowed in return. She spoke
(the lightless depths of her own
unblinking eyes) from experience.

I took in as much as a ten-
year-old could manage (whose
only chance at love was

the haphazard grace of inexperience) –
and yet the memory stuck.
Years later, in the emergency room,

I saw a young man with a mis-
cast fishhook neatly looped through his
ruddy cheek. I studied his pond-

green eyes, the pall of his grimace, and
wondered whose love had trawled for him,
and why had he escaped.

 

 

 

BIO

STEVEN RATINER has published three poetry chapbooks, the most recent of which – Button, Button (OpenEye Press) – was a collaboration with artist Marty Cain. His work has appeared in dozens of journals in America and abroad including Parnassus, Agni, Blackbird, Hanging Loose, Poet Lore, Salamander, QRLS (Singapore) and Poetry Australia. He’s written poetry criticism for The Christian Science Monitor, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post. GIVING THEIR WORD: Conversations with Contemporary Poets was re-issued in a paperback edition (University of Massachusetts Press) and features interviews with many of poetry’s most vital talents including Seamus Heaney, Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, Bei Dao, Maxine Kumin, and the last full-length interview with Bill Stafford before his death.

 

 

 

0

When I was loved by you

by Abigail George

For my mother and my father

 

Bombs danced inside my
Head. Behind my eyes. Went off
In my soul. Made fireworks
In my chest. I didn’t know
Then what I know now.
That there was room to grow
Infinitely. Now nearing
Middle-age I don’t test myself
Like that anymore. I’ve
Given up on men and women
And having a small tribe of
Children. On having love and relationships.
I’ve given up on improving

Myself. Calling that
Progress or maturation. Once your
Voice was thunder and your
Touch electric but I’ve
Given up the ghost of
Your personality. I have
Gone the distance for you.
I am rain now breaking over pillows of verdant grass
And winter pavement.
The plural of wisdom
To me now is to keep
On moving. To live under a sky so blue with
Gladness. I am falling like
The sun’s birth day. I am
Alive. I am falling. I am mistress. I am master.
My truth is divine. Divine.

Father, you’re an expert at
Your ‘craft’. Mother, you were
Always a dynamo in the
Kitchen sewing-sewing a-
Way in my childhood. You
Shaped your daughters to
Follow men. You’re worried
Now about wrinkles and
Grey hair. Growing old and
Infirm in your own way.
Falling to the river in your
Dreams. My father looks at
Me as if to say goodbye forever.

 

 

Searching for my sister in middle age

 

Her name is much like the noisy
Movement of the coastline of the
Pacific. Her pain is remote and ghostly
To me as the streets and alleys of
California and Manhattan. She is
Young and beautiful. Holiness and
Machine. She is pure. Half-asleep
She is atrophied fire, rain, and air.
In my robust hands her hair blossoms
With the instinct of thunder. At
My kitchen table I feed the pillows
Of her red mouth trout and salmon.
Perhaps our frailest mother and father
Should have divorced years ago
When they were still young enough
To fall in love again. Marry other
People. Now they are too set in their
Own ways. They have built up a
Lifetime of habits in their vein walls.
Let me protect her and let her anchor
Me like a mirror. A glass of red wine
In the evening blinds her soul. The planet
Of all her nerves and jitters are not
Yet dead. One day our brown
Faces will be heavy with wrinkles.
Our hands will be prunes and our
Perfume will no longer bloom. We’ll fade
Away into the sun. Lines where our
Heart, lungs, liver once were. The vast
Tissues and organs of our immune
System running on empty. Nothing
Left to predict anymore. My hands scan
Everything. The distant underground maneuvering

The chains of the sea. Its switch from purple
At midnight to sea-green during the day.
We’re people merely acting out our problems.
Women acting a lonely bit part here and there.
Lonely rain, overwhelmingly the outsider
Marks the extinction of my sister’s flesh
And familiar bloodwork. She compensates
For far too many things that have gone
Wrong in her life. No milk in our breasts
For sons and daughters. Childhood not forgotten.
We braid our hair in silence. Oil on our hands.
Oil on our hands. The silent moon of our mother above us.
The hottest state of the sun of our father.
Faraway human voices speak softly to me.

 

The ghost of the adolescent Melissa Burjins

 

Gravid belly filled with stars
Gravid belly starless night
I burn with weariness in my soul
The rehabilitation of Hiroshima
And Nagasaki. Vacant rooms
Across continents smothered
By ancestors. Swimming in fields
Of carrion. Once upon a time
Kafka had a tyrant for a father.
I had a tyrant for a mother. Athletes
Are built tough. The bird’s shadow
At the window. Winter pavements
Shining with abalone and slick.
My eyes are empty. My soul is
A shell. There are rooms in my
Lungs that remind me of partings
That are faded. Stripped and jerking.
In the letting go you will find the
Climbing singing scorching weather.
I write books for a living. I call
It an ‘art’. That is all my nerves
Can take. Not love. Not men. Not women.
And so I open my notebook and
The day’s work begins with doubts.

Anxiety. Insecurity. Uncertainty.
My feet in a cement bucket/bath/field.
I am never to return to the girl
I was before. The flame is twisting,
Drowning, burning in my heart.
I want to kiss her lips. Take her hand
In mine. Tell her that I love her.
While I raise up the veil of the sun
In so many splendid ways and call
Upon the bride of the environment.
Gravid belly. Stars fill the night sky.
I remember all of her. All that she said.
In childhood I live next to a field,
A ‘bush’ that was always burning
Up in flames in the summer heat.
I don’t know where my mother’s depression
Began and ended. She’s a legend.
Her laughter is still epic. She was
A bride and a bridesmaid. Orphaned
When I was a small child. She is
Alive. Her throat is camouflage. Harpoon-
Ready. It is morning and joy is still
Young. This ghost house of leaves.

 

The museum filled with ordinary families at teatime

 

The future of seawater
Towards immortality,
Dust singing of sick birds.
My sister was the former and I, the latter.
The night is spiritual.
Your country is a haunted
Land filled with the
Proverbial thirst. The measures
Of longing. Of dying
To belong to feast and
The imperative. Every
Broken family is filled
With cracks in their system.
Their lungs overflowing with flame like a
Fireplace in a mansion.
I don’t know whether
This shoreline will still
Be here in a decade. I’m thinking of the wind.
Feasting my eyes on gulls.
It’s beautiful out here.
The singing geography of
Here reminds me of
Alice in her wonderland.
A word like ‘emphasis’.

I am a woman hard at
Work. Sunday means church but ‘Buddha’
And me sit outside.
He is nearly three years
Old. Daddy and the washed out weather-eye,
His father, my brother,
Went to church early
This morning. There is dirt under
His fingernails. The mirth
Of air is in his lungs.
He is my morning flame.
He is my scribbled knight.
He brings me thanksgiving. He does
Not belong to the bonfire
World of men yet. I kiss
His wrinkled feet and hands.
Coal for eyes. Foal legs.
In his hands he holds the ripples of
An autumn leaf. His lips are
Moths’ wings. Tongue fluid
And slack chewing gum.
Chewing, chewing between grass, far
Off clouds and two kites.

 

When it comes to transformations of the intellect

 

I hate hospitals. Dad
Is there recuperating
From an illness. His leg
Could be amputated.
We took him to the
Emergency unit on a
Saturday morning. It
Feels as if something is missing.
Daddy is not here. It
Feels as if winter is upon
Us once more. Dad is not
Here. I hate hospitals.
Beds folded down with their
Neat hospital corners.
A leaf has fallen from
A tree defying gravity.
The wind catches in
My hair outside the hospital.
I think I’m going to
Be sad. The stairs are empty.
The parking lot is full. Women are

Placenta rich. She is a
Bird. She wears white stockings
Of shade and shadow as intimate
As common sense.
Here you will find women
In uniform. The nurse
With her shroud and coffee.
The psychiatrist made of stone.
The security guard.
The nurse pushing the wheelchair.
You think they will
Make you feel better.
But they don’t. They don’t.
The rooftops of Paris
Remind me of you,
Daddy. Here the ancient
Sun comes. Evenings
Pinkish light. The river
Is wild. The wild is dark. Lonely.
Dad, I hate hospitals.
You’re in the wrong country.

 

 

BIO

Abigail George’s fiction was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film and television production at Newtown Film and Television School opposite the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. She is the writer of Africa Where Art Thou (2011), Feeding the Beasts (2012), All About My Mother (2012), Winter in Johannesburg (2014), Brother Wolf and Sister Wren (2015), and Sleeping Under the Kitchen Tables in the Northern Areas (2016). Her poetry has been widely published in anthologies, in print in South Africa, and in zines from Nigeria to Finland, and New Delhi, India to Istanbul, Turkey. She lives, works, and is inspired by the people of the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

 

 

 

0

When I’m Awake, but Not Awaken

by Kailey Tedesco

 

 

How wild do the parasols roll open
on this morning, dark & hot? My ankles are
tired, yet energized & I keep my gait
to a quick creep. The moon
& sun cartoon themselves against the
horizon, each of them squinting,
each of them trying to make
out the words a little faster. I am still
still & lifting myself the best I can
in this old zip-dress. To look up
is to beg for something I’m not ready
to ingratiate myself for. Gaze escapes
my body in the séance of walking, feet always
conjuring new sight. Mother sings a strange
song about railway injustices & I pretend
not to hear her. I’m eating porridge like
a fantasy. In the story, my hair is not so
tangled with grease. My body grazes
bladed ceilings & I wonder how high
a spirit can climb without a burst of helium.

 

 

Marya Murders the Deathless

After the Russian folktale of Koschei the Deathless

 

I.

Thank the Lord I’ll never know
the slip of blade & skin, blood

is shadowed & sunlit at once –
my dress caught on an crystalline

branch, my dress bleeds its own color.
It feels submissive & I know

this island wants to possess me
& erase me, wants to swallow itself

into a new soul.

II.

Bleeding out feels like climbing
trees – you try so hard to keep me,

but somewhere there’s a god calling
& I say no & my skeleton craves

more bones, his bones like oak
& glutton. I sin all seven ways

& feel no contrition. The bishop
says he’s never seen a portrait

of God & I believe it.

III.

I used to collect crystals inside
a chest of fool’s gold. When he stole
them, I put a hex against his house
& stole his rabbits – they liked
me better, but refused to reproduce,
refused to cough out
the skins I needed.

IV.

This deck of cards has three eggs, Fabergé.
They oscillate in carnival & he
says he doesn’t believe in me & he says
pick one. Remember when Mama took
bites from my Halloween chocolate?
There were no needles, but if
there were, I’d keep them for my
embroidering – I’d flagellate.

V.

In the end, it is always me &
a man – a man of bone alone
all voodoo pricks & I stab
him powerless.

Did you know the sea
is a visage of slaughter? I think
I will cage him there & swallow
salt like a feast.

 

 

BIO

Kailey Tedesco is the author of These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press) and the forthcoming full-length poetry collection She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publications). She is the editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical and a performing member of the NYC Poetry Brothel. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In 2016, she received her MFA in creative writing from Arcadia University. You can find her work in Bellevue Literary Review, Meat for Tea, FLAPPERHOUSE, Mass Poetry Poem of the Moment, Prick of the Spindle, and more. For more, please follow @kaileytedesco.

 

 

 

0

After Love

by Greg Hill

 

 

You are to love one another, came the commandment. But some were too far in the back of the crowd to hear, so a message relay was requested. One stood up, turned around, and repeated what he had heard. There was a clamor near this speaker, for a few of his words were slightly different than what some thought they had heard the first time. It was decided quickly, by a few of the elders, that a committee should be gathered to confirm exactly what was said and what, if any, translations could be counted official. But you know what happens next: there’s discontent about who gets invited, various factions break off, each employing a different method of counting votes, several favoring just the heads of family, others allowing representation for adult males only, some discounting 40% the voting power of certain individuals based on skin color. Children are born into a community that knows only its moral certitude, which translates poorly across rivers and oceans, and means a slaughter of innocents who were bred to interpret their charge differently. Money changes hands, along with votes and allegiances. Discord erupts into conflict, conflict into battle, battle into war, treasuries collecting taxes to grow the hungry machine. There are others who come later, who try to capture some spirit of the original message, using words like “care” or “respect” or “peace” yet journalistic integrity must bow before cost margins, the success of which is necessary to deliver the corporate message to the people, so pitiful messages of tolerance and redistribution are rightly squashed. Clouds pass over, and days, and seasons and years and new calendars are formed and displaced by even newer ones but still the victors maintain their rectitude, even as philosophies bloom and wither, clans and kingdoms and empires and multinationals. It is so severe, this loving of one another, so as to be unrecognizable, though of course that is not the point, since it is victory that has led us here, righteousness that has given value to the status quo, to the structures and systems and weapons stockpiles that must be fortified against all enemies, enemies destroyed at all cost, costs driven by market, markets to protect the inheritance of what is right and good, for the sake of principle, for the purpose of discipline, for the flag of love that waves tirelessly over the corpses of infidels, of martyrs, of unbelievers; the diffident, the different, the dependent and misled; the huddled, the tired and the damn poor.

 

 

Song to the Hemlocks

 

I sing a song to the hemlocks
in the shade where the river
bends. Sail down, small notes,
with the flashing fins of fly-fish trout
and rowing boats,
past cold and austere rocks,
past glade ferns, golden farms,
the dances of their fields, then out beyond
the fertile loam where the current ends
and the splashing foam of the tide begins.

 

 

 

Alarm Clock

 

The alarm clock,
however, gets up earlier,
preparing for its purpose
like the pubescent teenager
jogging up the summer
camp’s grassy hill
with his bugle
to play Reveille.
Most working adults
have something negative
to say about the way
they are woken up
in the morning.
The not-quite-gentle
touch of open palm
to snooze alarm
is passive aggressive,
like a handshake—
one that gives
the appearance of
nice to meet you,
but has the feel of
shut the hell up
and don’t come back.

 

 

BIO

Greg Hill is an educator, adjunct professor of English, math tutor, and voice over talent in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and his work has appeared in Atlas and Alice, Barzakh, Cargo Literary, Cheap Pop, Grub Street, Past Ten, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Whiskey Island and elsewhere. Thanks to his kids, he has memorized the movies Frozen, Trolls, and Moana. He spends his free time studying quantum mechanics and toki pona.

 

 

 

0

Firmament V

by S. L. V. Stronwin

 

A cleansing black smoke
That’s what I need once in a while

The old painted train seems only to burnish by
When it might penetrate the rain

Simple spells and autism
Nearest now, but still off in the hidden

Little world of trees now abandoned
To our pretense of progress

Remember the swarm?
Slow black and ticking in the snow

Smoking dope and campfire food
Not quite real, either of them

But you captured it all, disassembled, reassembled
In color

I like the ache—it feels
Like you did something, you know?

 

 

Wound

 

Not corpselike, just full
She shows
Incorruptible as ice in the flower hole
Exposition of snowy visions is a surer course
And the undead try
—Don’t give way to nostalgia
Try not to let her in

Mortar and pestle to grind the arils
Shatter the fruit to end life
Pliable then, next unoiled
Only to disintegrate in closure
Paranoia in the woods
White stalks
And monkshood to end it all

A shame not to dream of it

Zen as a purring kitten
Zen is a purring kitten
Wife dreaming up salmon for her son
All made tired by the light
Never at peace, though now we think
Love is an ease
Love is an ease

 

 

Anisocoria

 

Pillars of light
In forged spirals
Fear of fire
Star anise pine

Cold symphony
And iron apertures
Steel lens tethered
To grey clusters in rope

Sight of blindness
Withered cables
Ragged yellow
Nerves in acid

Palsy in four
Waiting for light to pierce
To flutter in
Taking no time at all

From its fast pace
A perspective
In bent bright shapes
Small perfect shapes

Or great green spheres
Or pale blue dots of dust
Humming in time
Counting cold cosmic clocks

But all too deep
Too strange, distant
Ineffable
Black silences

Instead, close light
Something near and massless
Generated
But not generating

Now sight withers
And parasitizes
And reaches in
Pulling out cold wet lymph

White and wilting
In grey iron
Unforgiving
Cold carbon mouth

Dripping steel flesh
Uncorroded by breath
Razor wire
Connects the lip and breast

Now so inside
Eyeskin drips wet and weak
The eye ripples
Pineal weakness shines

Blossoming and
Whispering and
Absorbing self
Corrugating

Senses and words
Rationalizing loss
Killing meaning
Devouring intent

Forgetfulness
Consumes me so
I wish I felt
Something, anything

Blind now, afraid
Her light stolen from me
Sleeping virus
Crafts a womb from your thoughts

Composes flesh
Strung in vellum
Makes love to you
Through you, inside

Uses you as
The stars use an ocean
Silent and soft

There she sings cold melody
Her insignificant borders

There he hums base harmony
Dissonance in replication

Happiness inverse
Happiness in verse

Holes change their shape
Welcoming light
In dead harbors
Lapping old shores

Glimpsed briefly through the fog
Forgotten all her faces

Again, attacking
Strewn like orchards
In summered ecstasy
Hedonists not idle
Celebrants that sup
Borrow
And steal

Now divide
Share the wealth of this corpse
Homunculus of littler universes
And windblown fragments
Elsewise whole
Or in an illusion of wholeness

Third departure
Halation emulsified
In the yellow fat of fear
Storm cellared echoes
Subsume the distance
Manipulate with terrible force

Orchids in her eyes
Orchids in her smile

Cincinnatus
His war thus ended
Disrobes and returns
Embraces the earth

Nerves compressed
Lesions in legion
Variance in photographs
Ancient brain succumbs

To error, helminthic corruptors
Or great distress

O, happy windows
Powerful organs
You emulate the world you imagine
Furnish meaning

Feeding obsession, mistrust
Part of a whole
But an effable selection
Or at least at a glance

Legions in lesion
Galaxies pregnant with light
Spilling life into the saltless sea
Overfull and ever-flowing

 

 

BIO

S. L. V. Stronwin was born in Upstate New York, but has been itinerant for some time, finding home in the Central Coast of California, the Central Valley of the same, Baja Arizona, the far woods of Vermont, and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. At present, the author writes what he reads: subversive high fantasy, eldritch weird fiction, scientific nonfiction, and stuff about plants. He has one cat, a genteel and tuxedo-bound fellow named Sokka. His work can be found at (amazon.com/author/slvs) – the author’s work, that is, not the cat’s.

 

 

0

Rationalization

by Charles W. Brice

 

The man behind the couch
serves libido for lunch

destrudo for dinner
Mmmmmmmmm

Ration your reason
Your ratio of reality
Too much is scary

It’ll all be okay

He needs to get paid for missed sessions
You understand

He has kids you need to send to college
A mortgage you pay with your neurosis

That’s understandable

A good gig if you can get it
And I got it when I entered
the Psychoanalytic Institute in 1990

My Supervising Analyst charged me $180 an hour on a patient I was seeing for $10
            an hour four times a week

Es vas reasonable

I was only in the hole $140 a week
for the privilege of my supervisor falling asleep
while I was reporting to him
my patient’s dream

He wanted to empathize with that dream
by dreaming himself

He lived in a huge house
with oak paneling
Crystal
Oriental rugs

He should get my money
He had a right to it

He was rational

 

 

Displacement/Sublimation

 

What place is Dis

Chain gang a workin’ Displacement Road

for the sub/bureau
the psychoanalytic precinct

Moving from sublimation’s sublime to displacement’s slime

From painting the Sistine ceiling because it’s forbidden to be gay to kicking a dog after the
            iconic rough day

It’s the place you’re
meant to be
bumped along
the metonymic
highway

Yield the right of way

Yield the right way

 

 

BIO

Charles W. Brice is a retired psychoanalyst and is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (WordTech Editions, 2016) and Mnemosyne’s Hand (WordTech Editions, forthcoming, May, 2018). His poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in over forty-five publications including The Atlanta Review, Hawaii Review, Chiron Review, The Dunes Review, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Sport Literate, SLAB, The Paterson Literary Review, Spitball, VerseWrights, The Writing Disorder, and elsewhere.

 

 

 

0

Trio, or Three Sour Grapes

A. A. Reinecke

 

A Fuck You

hey brother / fuck you for being tan indoors / like you haven’t been to class in weeks / but Ian / took you to the: Hamptons / because you’re dying / like Jell-O hellfire laps at your mortal / ankles / in the / drunk disarray; some party / but doesn’t / bite / fuck you because all you eat is shit / like yogurt / and it slides to the shape / you want it / like milk and cream yield to / you / like: life / hey brother / last week at prom you caught / company / in flesh / like you never brought back any / salmon from your / trip / the Adirondacks / like when I make you / milk hot / you wait / for it to / cool like only a coward runs / from the draft / under the door/ like she starved herself / so you’d touch / her / like the preparation of sacrifice / for altar / like it was against marble you / fucked / the bathroom at the / Waldorf / Astoria / a lovely / bathroom / like it smelled of cinnamon lotion / and resistant / starvation like laurel hung / to please you / to please stop / please / fuccckkk / fuck / fuckmeharder / like Yale took you / when it shouldn’t have / like when you / broke Ian’s nose he let it / go / and your coup for class / president / ended in / rococo: re-election / candy wrappers / littered the hall / found in January: you owe Dad / a fortune / maybe / a life / like you never paid him for / the baby Snickers / or the condoms / or the bourbon / you drained / or / the hell / the other kind / of which you dealt / so much.

 

 

A Happening

 

It was happening: a child in the backseat
of a car. A parking lot behind a bar warm with
May. Like milkshake air. Like cornbread buttered
that’s how you know it’s summer: you can’t
trust the butter to: cold air.

Say blane. Coconut cove. Private marshmallow
weekendwaltz. Pearly white between the seat
imported crumbs from domestic chips: New
Hampshire snacks from California and his hands
greasy with lust of the kill.

He’d done it: conquered stateliness or folded
oats into grain, 7-11 drugstores, lollipops with taffy knit
in, concrete pools, mediocre sex, banana ice
cream, a drink straw caught like bug in amber fucked
by circumstance. I’ll still hit you.

If you say it. That’s a dare. The child’s mouth had
bled because tapered candles are red and nobody lets
anybody get away with anything. My dad don’t drink he
swims a breast stroke motion with his arm
is an underhand to the: jaw.

It was happening: a child in the backseat
of a car. The blood had veined the skin hot like what they
made Rome with. He cursed into leather because
dying tastes like: salt. Like potato chips and they only
filled the bag. Half full.

 

 

Last Night’s Gin on Your Mouth for Breakfast

 

It is cold like a prison like Antarctica gray and on
the folded bit a dribbling of blood the shape of:
Minnesota. St. Paul. That’s where he’s from.
St. Paul. It is noon now. That was breakfast.
The room was a sideboard with bits of fractured
glass tacked up. The windows spoke in tongues like
chemise powder blue lapis like eyeshadow
colors like Maybelline or my lust strained through
milk. Q: Do you love me? A: I don’t know. Chai was
sweet grain melted like the wetness of my mouth
and your tongue tastes still like Ian and
his carpet and his gin like a plow for planting
prohibition. Q: The flask? A: No. My plastic cup
membrane shed quartz like history nabbed from
headband. Q: You eating? Coffee? Anything?
A: No. St. Paul. That’s where he’s from.
St. Paul.

 

 

BIO

Alexandra A. Reinecke is a writer and journalist who uses writing as a tool to encourage empathy and affect positive change.

 

 

0

Disappointed Customer

by Bruce McRae

 

 

Dear Whomever, not that we care that much,
but we seem to have misplaced your recent order.
Somehow the forms were sent to deepest Africa,
your details now in the hands of the Russian mob.
However, for an extra fee we will provide poor service.

Often what one desires one doesn’t receive.
Molly in reception was abandoned by her parents
and God, for example, so I wouldn’t complain,
not if you know what’s good for you.
And we know what’s good for you.

 

 

In Another World

 

A headless chicken…
On a raft…
In an ocean of methane…
On another world…
In an alternate timeline…

But wait, there’s more,
says the author
while patting down
his unruly cowlick.
Creating his own problems.
Making trouble for himself.
Starting something
he couldn’t finish.

 

 

It’s A Job

 

The one who drives hogs screaming
to the slaughterhouse, whistling a happy tune,
smoking a cigarette he’d term well deserved,
twiddling dials on an old truck’s radio,
ogling the gals on this sunny summer morning.
Fulfilling his role, if not his destiny.
Carrying on in a world as sweet as it is bitter.

*

Our friendly neighborhood gravedigger.
The quiet sort, who keeps to himself
and bides his counsel, off to work
each morning without a care in the world,
his cat left watching in the window.
He who deports himself as if one
maintaining a well-kept confidence.
A man to withhold Earth’s secrets.

*

I found work as a village idiot.
I sit on a fence and grin all day.
I get to shout at the incomprehensible
something-or-other which is all around us,
gesticulating wildly, like a drunken man
waving at flies that aren’t actually there.
The pay is poor, but I don’t mind;
in my line of work there are few expectations.
I just chew on a straw. Come rain or shine.
I just spit in the dirt. Come hell or high water.

*

The graveyard shift,
a killer of women and children,
of those who have two choices,
little or none, stars faltering,
the moon fallen down,
workers’ heads bowed
in determined reverence,
the righteous tucked into bed,
their dreams unhindered
by metal on bone.
By the issues that cause
much suffering.

 

 

BIO

Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a Pushcart nominee with over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets’ (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pskis Porch), all available via Amazon.

 

 

 

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