by Brandi Homan
Jeremy tells me the kid a few rows down is from Small Town Nearby.
He’s from the halfway house, Jeremy says.
What’d he do? I say.
Fucked a cow, Jeremy says.
Having a boyfriend means someone thinks you’re pretty. Mine writes me love poems in pencil on blue-lined paper: my golden hair, my golden heart. I fold the papers into rectangles, slide them under my pillowcase. The words will smudge but I don’t mind.
My Boyfriend and I have sex because I love him and that’s when everybody says it’s ok to do it, but then Bluto makes a joke and puts his hand on my stomach and I know that he knows and I want to die.
I want to die right there.
Take your damn hands off her, I want My Boyfriend to say, but I stand there and feel his dad’s hand warm on my stomach. Then I smile because Bluto smiled first.
That’s what you do.
Brandi Homan holds a PhD in English, Creative Writing (Prose), from the University of Denver and is the author of two books of poetry, Bobcat Country and Hard Reds, from Shearsman Books.
by Ally Young
The Root Cause of Many of Your Current Major Dilemmas
At the party, on the porch, someone you admire very much guesses your star sign. Scorpio, they say. You are a cancer, and the mistake offends you. You call Nell. Scorpio, you divulge, what tremendous mistakes I have made.
Ally Young is an MFA candidate at Syracuse University but still thinks fondly and often about her various previous residences in Austin TX by the highway. Her work has been published in Borderlands, The Brooklyn Review, Metatron and elsewhere. Her chapbook The West and Other Mistakes came out last fall via Dancing Girl Press.
by Nolan Allan
the attack requires a moonless night, tonight
just won't do, we gotta wait
for the cover of darkness to ascend
the mountain stronghold
the flint knappings as deer strut
through the pews of the dead church, out of
place chandeliers hanging everywhere watercolored
with lichen, tinkling against the buck
and his twelve point antlers like the soundtrack
to a horror movie set during christmastime
out loud she said, "i am thinking about the immortality
of the crab and why
you put words in my mouth, and i don't
mind how they taste, i turn them over
with my tongue", she said, mapping
feed me another piece, another
ism, more summer, another
outbreak of poison ivy
climbing up my arms, numinous
ants fleeing the rain amongst
sturdy toadstools knifed down
the middle, bleeding blue latex, silver
we now know that in olden times
some species of deer succumbed to the weight
of their own antlers, and if that's not a metaphor
neatly indicting the history of consciousness, i don't
know what's really real
the attack commences
another night and ends
on time, the lack of casualties
on both sides despite our being
the victor leads me to believe
this was a setup all along, that one day
some gracile ancestor of ours uncovered
the plot to name all things, passing it along
telephone style, whispered succinctly
in one ear in the hope
the message reaches its destination
unscathed and understood
to know if we should have bailed
long ago, though all signs point to
road runnering off
precipices festering in the side
view mirrors the way
a black dress drapes off
your shoulder at the end
night adam told me that
mid afternoon sunday sex was the best sex
if your goal was to find a way to hide
my intromittent organ, this is no amplexus unless
if i tell you before you've spent the night
my lips taste like butter in the morning
because of all the butter i put in my coffee,
yellow fat wallowing on the surface
tension a rudimentary grasp of physics
makes you aware of
dead flowers who resemble
ripe figs perform an excarnation
upon our ribs, mandolining flesh
to be preserved for two months in spirits
mixed with camphor and myrrh
Nolan Allan's work has been published in Spy Kids Review, Prelude, Witchcraft Mag, and many others. His first chapbook "mountain dew" is forthcoming from Bottlecap Press. He lives in Durham, North Carolina and online @nolanallan
by Daniel Romo
A man walks into a pit and breaks his legs and there is no punchline or laugh track. Any amusement from the incident should derive solely from tendons and bone snapping in half. Everyone experiences moments when not paying attention results in a stubbed toe or a partially maimed torso. And every patch of earth begs to be filled with a substance other than itself (The most obvious metaphors shoulda’ been thrown out with the baby.). Half the fun of any crisis situation lies in deciphering if panic outweighs precaution. Laying in the dirt under the guise of a condescending sky provides perspective on the hierarchy of straight faces kept. Deadpan > hardcore, and a town hall meeting only breeds disgruntled team moms. What the neighborhood wants versus what the neighborhood needs pits man against city council. When in doubt, build a park.
The Museum of Second Chances
Whether deserved or not, they're put on display for public viewing, familiar exhibits symbolic of events representing the utmost in redemption. Pastel canvases highlighting broken trust, clay sculptures featuring illicit lust showcase consequences of the worst decisions life has to offer. Admission is free, however a tip jar is placed in the lobby so people can drop in their own notes promoting the spirit of forgiveness. Each work of art is not constructed to scale because degree of rehabilitation and hurt is universally subjective, therefore, each patron is free to view while relying on and replaying past experiences. Judgement is reserved for The Museum of Third Chances, located across the street. Teachers often bring in their classes on field trips, instructing their students on the virtues of truth as well as those of oops. But whether adult or child, it's best to stand back, tilt your head, and admire the pain, careful not to touch anything.
Building a Time Machine
It takes the technological know-how as well as the capacity to relive hurt, aka a little elbow grease and thicker skin than the first. Creating a blueprint for any endeavor requires relinquishing and reliving, accepting fate and forgiving, and the manual for assembling such a project and code for DNA are closely related. The path through the fourth dimension is laden with wormholes and assholes; perfect for sadists or masochists who insist on obtaining closure in the form of opening up old wounds. For the more optimistic voyager, the future is the first stop. A solo movie date void of previews, consisting solely of spoilers. Ultimately, destination and setting depends on direction. Travel east to jump ahead. South to sample past lives. Head west, and never look back.
The answer is usually your first instinct. Be it SAT or suspecting your lover of cheating, going with your gut is always preferable to leaning towards your hunch. It's anyone's guess as to the results, but giving it the old college try is better than being too shy to raise your hand. Studies show the brain can only hold so much information, but the human heart can retain infinite amounts of hurt. An A+ result could be luck or simply, big fuckin’ deal. You can spend a lifetime studying from the wrong textbook and still not be a failure. The ultimate act of testing yourself is letting go.
Daniel Romo is the author of When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014) and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). He lives in Long Beach, CA and bleeds Dodger Blue... a lot. More blood at danielromo.net.
by Alyssa Ciamp
Sexy Videos Killed Sexy Radio Stars
Videos have haunted me.
the beloved classic movie
I feel as if I will die shortly—
suffocated in bedsheets
hot with disbelief
wet with regret
I confessed it to a priest once
on a high school retreat
in a ramshackle church
on a boardwalk in New Jersey
still believing I was cursed
still praying the
women who kiss me in my dreams
would spontaneously remit.
On that retreat: I claimed to have
spoken in tongues
In reality: I just said ‘Jesus’ enough times
for the syllables to slur together
On that retreat: I could eat again—I had
rid myself of the ‘sins’ I committed
In reality: I found snacks in the back
of the closet
I was listening to Kelly Clarkson
I never liked oatmeal
but my favorite was the kind
that had dinosaur eggs, they’d hatch
before my eyes in warm water.
My grandfather ate those at the kitchen table
when my summers were longer
In my new Aeropostale polo
I’d crush and be crushed
alone in my parent’s backyard.
I thought love was
being handed a tissue
because I was sad.
The boy I liked was older—
I bought a skateboard to impress him
I talked loudly, shamelessly,
rode my red Razor scooter around the neighborhood
hoping my forlorn visage would beget romance.
I invited derision
I thought, maybe, I should love quietly
I met the love of my life
On a school bus in 2006
He asked me about the album
in my scratched silver CD player
I lied and said it was Maroon 5
to seem cool
I fall asleep next to him every night
On Saturday mornings—
over eggs, scrambled
I talk loudly, unabashed
He laughs with me
My love is oatmeal
With tiny dinosaur eggs
That hatch with warm water
Alyssa Ciamp is a scientist and a writer and a woman (sometimes in that order). She believes in ghosts and the tremendous strength of being vulnerable. Find her on twitter talking about Komodo Dragons: @ClinicallyChill.
by Christopher Bell
Anne had slowly sunk into the green arm chair as the morning passed; a slight headache scratching away when she lifted her torso. The others had forced too many shots; beyond giddy to see her back home. They spoke of minor accomplishments, their offspring sharing similar sentiments albeit with less enthusiasm. Anne enjoyed the children’s stories substantially more than those from their parents, adding vague insights when prompted. It felt good to listen with a purpose; her days of playing coy to old friends officially over. Now all they had were times when she felt out of place or just comfortable enough to come back.
There weren’t any plans to visit in the summer or fall, only a shifting work schedule and acquaintances she’d often kept at a distance. Still, they had a real way about them, recollections of minor comments and tomfoolery forcing a smirk as Netflix played the next episode. She needed to get up soon, starting her day with a drive back to the center. So many waited to see her again, all exceptionally complimentary. Stuart wasn’t like any of them. He hadn’t gone to the party or made plans ahead of time, and yet Anne knew he’d let her sleep on his couch regardless.
She missed that reliability despite its occasional sting. Stuart had talked too much at dinner, uttering rude or jaded remarks, trying to be funny or transparent. They’d seen each other at their worst, but the occasional façade remained, either as a defense mechanism or to maintain sanity. He’d been quiet that morning so as not to wake her, tiny steps down the hallway to the bathroom and kitchen. She stirred nonetheless, speaking softly before he shut the apartment door. “Have a good day at work. Thanks.” He didn’t reply; Anne fully aware that her friend’s hospitality had its limits.
The comforts of that green chair, though, were unparalleled, her college cigarette burn still intact on the left arm. He’d ditch it someday, and she’d only think of the cushion fondly, lazy mornings of that caliber often forgotten with the passing of time. Just one more mindless half-hour then she’d shower, maybe wash her dishes and leave a sweet, but far from sentimental note on the coffee table. Take care. Make sure not to crack up despite the size of this town. Stuart would smile and hide the page somewhere amongst scribbles.
Anne was lost in the episode when the first thud echoed up. Just the neighbor, she thought, before more footsteps up the hallway to Stuart’s door, and then minor fiddling with the lock. He must’ve gotten out early, returning home with all kinds of words for her before they parted. Anne wanted life to pick up in a dramatic fashion, like when the program ends and there’s a week of downtime wondering how these beautiful people will make sense of it all.
Instead, the man entering Stuart’s apartment didn’t even notice his guest. Dressed in a tight red cycling jersey and black bike shorts, he was but a flash of color and sweat down the hallway. Anne took a nervous breath, uncharacteristically faint as she sat up and contemplated the circumstances. There were knives in the kitchen and a clear path straight down to the outside world. A neighbor would surely hear her scream, although curiosity trumped any escape plan.
Standing, Anne lingered to the hallway and listened to the minor grunts of a man without shame. She caught herself giggling before the flush, then rushing back to the same green chair, turning up the volume an extra notch as his steps faltered. Picturing the look of confusion on his face, he eventually surfaced unscathed, albeit significantly worse for the wear. He had Stuart’s eyes, but little else, the years acting counterproductively. Beer belly, bald head, gray stubble and an uncharted tone at the sight of a woman in his son’s apartment.
“Excuse me, who are you?”
“I’m Anne. Who are you?”
“Cliff,” he sighed. “I think maybe I’ve heard about you before, either you or maybe somebody else.”
“It was probably somebody else.”
“Even so, why are you here right now?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” she smirked.
“I had to take a shit.”
“And you can’t do that at home?”
“I was riding around the neighborhood, and this was closer.”
“Does Stuart know you come here to use his bathroom?”
“He wouldn’t, but I usually send him a text afterwards.”
“Just for the hell of it, huh?”
“You got it,” Cliff grinned. “Does he know you’re here now?”
“Of course he does.”
“Are you planning on staying for a while?”
“I was actually gonna leave pretty soon.”
“And go where?”
“I’m just visiting from Montana, but my mom maybe lives an hour outside of town.”
“Putting off the inevitable, huh?”
“You could say that,” Anne replied. “She doesn’t get out of work until five anyway.”
“Still, you could be lounging there and not here.”
“Sure, I guess. Why, does me being here bother you?”
“Of course not. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
“Because you don’t see Stuart having girls over too often?”
“I’m sure he does. He just doesn’t tell me anything.”
“What, you don’t drop in on them?”
“This isn’t even an occasional thing with me, but every once in a while it does happen, and I always make sure to do it when he’s at work.”
“What if he called in sick?”
“Well that’s clearly not something he’d do on account of you now, is it?”
“That’s a pretty shitty thing to assume.”
“It’s a pretty shitty world, dear. Best not to let yourself get too caught up in the bigger things, especially if you’re just passing through.”
“Sound advice,” she sighed.
“I better be on my way, though. Plenty of miles before home. It was a real pleasure.”
Anne watched him exit, round splotches of sweat forming at his back. Unpausing the episode, she couldn’t get back into it. Something didn’t quite click with these people, roaming in packs, looking for love in sunken barrooms where only alcoholics found peace. She could write something better, a real true-to-life kind of thing with an eventual happy ending, except Stuart would be home soon, and despite meeting his father, Anne still couldn’t handle all that entailed. They’d see each other again, both perhaps a little less immune to expectations.
Christopher S. Bell has been writing and releasing literary and musical works through My Idea of Fun since 2008. His sound projects include Emmett and Mary, Technological Epidemic, C. Scott and the Beltones and Fine Wives. My Idea of Fun is an art and music archive focused on digital preservation with roots in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. (www.myideaoffun.org). Christopher’s work has recently been published in Linden Avenue, Noctua Review, Heavy Athletics, Queen’s Mob Teahouse, Crab Fat Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Lime Hawk and Talking Book among others. He has also contributed to Entropy and Fogged Clarity.
by C.M. Keehl
days I didn’t believe in
were sure to arrive
aloe like left out too long
in cold michigan nights
oblivion is everything
we built a totem a totality
off of only two howls
hungry running coyotes
& everything new
was instinct now
C.M. Keehl is a poet living in the forests of Michigan with their dog. They have a microchap UNTIL THE FOXES with Ghost City Press, & is founder of GRAVITON. Some recent poems in/ forthcoming: Powder Keg, Heavy Feather Review, Souvenir Lit & Yes, Poetry. @cmkeehl
by Rose Schechter
Blue Baby is shabby, now. He has lost his coat, and only has his grim grey underclothes. It was his coat that was blue. He isn’t really blue, anymore. He is leaning back, with his arms stretched out to his side. Like a porn star, spread eagle. Like Jesus on the cross. Lying back is a more accurate description. Not leaning back.
I made him a little jacket out of felt. It is turquoise blue. Not quite the right colour. It doesn’t fit him, and the sleeves are frayed at the sleeves. There are no buttons, and it lies wide open. His rag doll chest is exposed. I think he looks cold.
His shoes are still neat. They are the right blue, a dark regal navy blue. They are a dignified colour. His shoes are sneakers. Like converse or something. They are very neat. They should be cute, and fetching.
His eyes are open very wide. He is smiling. His lips are so pink. They are upturned so neatly. His eyes are blue, too. His cheeks are day and rosy. Just like baby's cheeks are supposed to look.
He has a little tuft of blonde hair at the top of his bald head. This is dirty, now, and matted. I cannot see it from the angle I’m seeing from. His dad is tilted back and I can only see his fat pink chin.
Pink Punk Troll Doll
Pink Punk Troll Doll has stood in a lot of places. She has seen many things. She is the last of the troll dolls, but will not tell you about it if you ask. She does not know how she feels. She a does not want to think about it.
The others were not taken, as she was, from my father’s house. They are still there, most likely, but Pink Punk Troll Doll does not know this. If she did, he might not be so happy.
I often wonder if she misses the others.
Her hair stands up and out, just about. The years of plaiting did not do too much harm. She is as ugly as she has ever been. Her face is wrinkled. Her lips are puckered. Her skin is hard and cold to touch. She is as ugly as every other troll. It is not too awful. Her clothes are tight, and the bag that crosses over her arm is someone else's. It looks good on Pink Punk Troll Doll. It suits her style.
She smiles, most of the time. Her mouth is big and ugly. It is a nice smile though. On seeing it you would think that she was truly happy. Not contented. But happy.
Her legs are firm, and from apart. She has the stance of a policeman. Or if someone who has taken a seminar on how to stand like a policeman. Pink Punk Troll Doll does not know about these seminars. She would not attend even if she did. She cannot stand any other way.
Rose Schechter is a student from London. She lives with her mother. Her work can be found at Hobart Magazine and Sea Foam Magazine.
by Laura McCullough
Marriage (after unseen damage from the flood)
The double trunked tree cracked, one side still reaching
to the sky, the other angled, all strangeness
and architectural drama, curving like an arm,
ending in a long green finger pointing toward the house
as if in accusation and some branches flicking the blades
below as if trying to pick up something dropped or lost.
Marriage (more than mercy)
Scientists ask whether light chooses
between being a wave or a particle. Sometimes
we choose for it, they say, assigning
it one or the other, making reality dense
with perception, which is only temporary.
When particles meet, they are forever connected;
even separated, they affect each other no matter
how far apart they become. In one story, there
is poison in a wound; in another, we are just
asking to see under the surfaces of this world.
Marriage (what they try in spring)
They were hoping to stay married, and she’d said, We
love our lost, a strange Spoonerism, but also true. He
laughed with rue, said, So much seems lost: art, planes, people.
They lay in the grass, feet touching at the toes, pleased
to watch the kids shoot each other with pistols, throw
fistfuls of water into the air. They might have wanted
to hold each other, but for the thousand blades between.
Laura McCullough's most recent collection of poems, The Wild Night Dress, was selected by Billy Collins as a finalist in the Miller Williams Poetry contest and was published by University of Arkansas Press.
by Alexandra Kulik
For Winnie, For When-
You will come through the black
sprouts on my inner thighs.
You will hear them seconds before--
feral cats in the night,
black women clawing their way up,
black Eves sucking the ground.
You will not be afraid.
Your first house will be a black
cave into which I drop not jewels
to drug you calm, still,
but icebergs and chicken bones.
You will learn to walk with your eyes.
You will learn everything as you come
out wetland to the wild wood.
I will slam the door behind you.
You will wince at the first smell.
Your raw baby arms will hurt between
my smooth reefs until you can
transcribe the prehistoric field guide
into finger signs so sure I feel them
coursing through my veins.
You will spit out the salt water,
will free your own legs.
Then, you will hear them louder--
the witch mothers calling you
by your name before I know your name.
They will wave black silken threads--
these gypsies, these hags I raised, finally,
when I learned to dance without a man’s hand--
you must dance and kiss them all. Blind,
you must spin like burning. Surprised to find
power in powerlessness, you will rejoice.
They will raise the hardest black
bamboo on you and you
will whack it down.
You will come out then,
and voyager, you will be ready
You are so young, beginner.
Root beneath the rubble.
Nature is not so unsolved
you delight in all entanglements:
seek love’s tentacles, wet
bosom between rocks, far
song, erring, and what’s more—
the invention of erring.
Nature is silent, you invent,
you are so young.
What is your business?
the hours of wretched time
to cling to your convulsing hip.
Significance, insignificance in every motion.
Ramble and arrive staunchly
at the open door of your double mind.
Stretch dogma-muggy space &
(Ten billion years ready)
Canoe the wild wind through and
not around and not over the wild thorns.
Tongue fiercely the sick man’s mouth
repeating: life is not a bad joke,
life is not, is not a bad joke.
Indifference poisons fruit.
Reluctance buries the alarm—
you wake in winter, late
Alexandra Kulik is a young woman by appearance and something like a mountain goat by spirit. She lives in Chicagoland with her dog Sam.
by M. Stone
Your fingers—icy comets
inside my coat.
Beneath the streetlight,
we do not speak; we grin
and shuffle our feet
around this betrayal.
Snow flecks melt in your hair
as you lean close. Your mouth—
a key unlocking mine.
I taste the after-dinner mint
lingering on your tongue.
You take my hand.
We climb the slick sidewalk,
breath held, dreading a fall.
M. Stone is a bookworm, birdwatcher, and stargazer who writes poetry while living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in SOFTBLOW, Calamus Journal, Amaryllis, and numerous other print and online journals. She can be reached at writermstone.wordpress.com.
by Jennifer Huang
In a dream,
I am a tender man. In a dream, I am a hardboiled egg. I touch
my plastic insides. In the morning, I jump into my parents' bed
and we pretend we are in a plane. The sheets, our windows
to the world: there's the ocean we crossed to get here, the dam
we think of when we are homesick, and the mountain that will be there
even when we are dead. When I was born,
my family told each other how much we loved one another.
Love overfilled us with love overfilled us with love—
or that's what my mother tells me. Or that's what I wish
I could remember. Or—how I wish I could be a pilot,
because in a dream, my father is crying and we are hugging.
I have never seen him cry, except when he lost his family to himself.
How I wish I could be a dream with a birthday that never ends.
On birthdays, my father cooks me noodles and tells me that
if I bite the noodle, my wish won't come true,
so I sit at the table and slurp until I fall asleep.
In a dream, I am a fold in a suit,
I am the sheen of satin. I am a pilot and I steer.
Ritual for Connection
On a Monday, we decide to give each other compliments
I like your voice, I say
I like your soul, you say
I like the way your knee bends
Your family's honesty, you say.
On a Tuesday, we stare at each other, closing
our gaps with a purple glue stick, we forget
to listen to each other.
On a Wednesday, I dream of your home
before I even know you and I'm not sure
if that's a sign or not, not sure if there is some weight
behind my visions of battery romance.
I like your kindness, I finally say on a Thursday
when we are scrubbing the floor on our knees
Like this, you say, with a damp microfiber
No, like this, I say, please do like this like me, I think.
On a Friday, we celebrate ourselves
a glass of apple juice and you are tipsy,
I am always sober no matter how much I drink,
my mind more stubborn than my body,
your body, flimsy when I touch.
On a Saturday, no electricity between bodies until Sunday, when our lights turn on
I ask you to tell me you love me.
Instead, a cloud casts a shadow over your mouth.
Jennifer Huang is a Taiwanese-American writer and artist, who prefers to work in verse. Her poems have appeared in The Blueshift Journal, The Oakland Review, and HVTN. She is an Assistant Poetry Editor at Sundog Lit and lives somewhere between her mind and the horizon. www.huangjennifer.com
by Bob Raymonda
The Seedling's Overactive Imagination
the infant tree dreams, each night, of a cyborg in its own image
fiberglass roots tendrilling into the ground as its armored body,
stands proud, grasping toward a sky forever out of reach
its many jointed limbs squeaking in the wind, begging for oil
to ease the pain it feels by merely existing, in a forest
of its betters, both poplar and oak, subsisting off the
same sunlight, but failing to amass their great heights,
unwillingly ceasing its effortless crawl out and upward
instead allowing the soft buzz of its soldered hair
to accept that it has reached its final plateau
the trees, they speak, staring daggers into the mirror
images they see within one another, each convinced
the other has it better, whether it be in shape or circumstance,
manmade or naturally birthed from their mother, Earth
An Infinite Weight
there is a three hundred thousand pound
turtle that lives invisibly inside my chest
grazing slowly on the dropped figs and
pomegranate seeds she finds strewn about
she is older than life itself and splits
her time in between the souls of everyone
on Earth, like some sort of unwitting divorcee
her presence is warm but unforgiving, and
despite what you may think she is faster
than the infinite hare, creeping up on all of us
in bustling cafes and on the pillowy mattresses
where we sleep, her phantom shell scrubbing out
the air from our lungs, inserting endless thoughts
into our heads, until they're full to bursting
it doesn't matter how nicely we ask for her to
give us one brief moment of respite, as even when
she isn't there, crowding up our insides with her guilt
and girth, her forward march through us plods on,
eating away at our last few shreds of refuge, and
the safety we hoped to find inside our wanton homes
these fleshy prisons of all we've ever known
an armadillo with rhinestones on its belly
gets into an elevator with a hippopotamus
juggling a cup of coffee, three pens, and
the paper sack containing his lunch
"Excuse me," says the hippo to his new friend
"Could you do me a favor and press 31?"
armadillo sighs, hopping up onto the hippo's
sweaty back, using his nose to do the other
one's bidding. He returns to his place in the
opposite corner, whistling to the tune of Miley Cyrus'
Party in the USA, and praying to spend the
Rest of their ascension up the skyscraper silent
"Wild weather out there today," hippo muses
and armadillo can't help but let out a little snort;
he has such little patience for weightless
pleasantries shared between two people who'll,
God willing, never have to interact again, that
he more often than not, utterly ignores them
but something compels him to interact, and so
he looks up into the other's eyes, staring daggers
into him, and spits, "No worse than in here,"
and the hippos' shoulders sink, and he frowns
the rest of the way to his floor, at which point he, letting
out a too-loud huff, exits the armadillo's life again.
Bob Raymonda is the founding editor of Breadcrumbs Magazine. He graduated from Purchase College with a focus in creative nonfiction. Some of his other work can be found in Yes Poetry, Peach Mag, Luna Luna, & OCCULUM. Learn more at: www.bobraymonda.co.
by Kevin Bertolero
Little Voices, Little Waves
“Hate is love on fire, set out to burn like a flare on the side of the road. It says stop here. Something terrible has happened.”
—Alexander Chee, Edinburgh
Think of the choir boys and their stillness, little voices, little waves, singing oh nuit, vient apporter á la terre.
There must must be other ways, you say, of tracing back to a point of origin, but I can think of none.
When you and I were kids, we put pennies on the tracks, waiting for the 11:00 train. We had a crushed
collection. Now I am on the platform thinking of you, of the cathedral, of blue water and returning home.
Nothing moves me so much as a pile of books in the hallway, my loves. You are an educated man and
understand that I feel a certain shame. This does not mean I love you any less, I say, only that you have so
much to give, and still, you give it all to me. But there you are in the morning on the mattress on the floor,
thinking of a future in which there are fewer trees to cut down, fewer tunnels to bury. A future in which
we empty our jar of pennies and see what is left for us to do.
after Richard Siken
You take the gasoline and pour it over the pile of leaves, you take a step back, light the fire, and then tell me that it is time to go to school. It is 3:00 A.M. and we are in the yard standing over burning leaves, and when I tell you that it’s too early for school, when I tell you that it is Sunday, you come at me and we fight.We both become bloody and when we are tired we fall down. We keep falling and the pile is still on fire. Now the Chevelle is on fire and I am still asleep.
I am in the rail yard, in the rain, and the hills to the east are covered in snow. What I can see looks like the European landscapes depicted in film, a scene of incomplete turmoil. We are at the cement factory in Jamesville and we park the car too far down the road to see it now. Again, we fight, but this time we are embracing. We are reciting the words of our fathers. When I was your age, I would have done anything to be with her. You are not her, but still I am with you. Remind me to tell my father.
We are at the movies. We are sitting in the front row and I’m watching as you begin to wipe tears from your eyes, as you begin to make noises, like something feral. You keep calling the movie theater a wish house, and with the spotted ceiling, I think I can understand why. I only want to know what it is that you are wishing for. I think that maybe our wishes are the same.
Kevin Bertolero is the founding editor of Ghost City Press. He holds a BA in Literature from Potsdam College and is the author of From the Estuary to the Offing, Modern Thought, and Soft Boy. Based out of Syracuse, NY, he is a staff writer for Anomalous (formerly Drunken Boat) and his work has been published by Maudlin House, PNK PRL, Reality Beach and others. He tweets @KevinBertolero.
by Howie Good
After the Fourth
It started off as a kind of tongue-in-cheek thing. He kept saying he was going to kill someone. Yeah, well, that comment got condensed into a soundbite. I received the news from afar. We were shooting fireworks, chilling, and then we saw the cops come. I remember thinking, “Do we belong here?” Here everyone is special, and so no one is, even the dead ones we love. Yesterday was supposed to be a holiday and a celebration. But just taking a picture of explosives bursting in the air doesn’t mean anything. The whole century suddenly came together for me as these wispy little clouds behind this barbed wire.
We’ve probably found the oldest smiley emoji. As for the interpretation, you may certainly choose your own. None of it makes sense. It's like my legs have carried me here by themselves. We don't have a grasp on what the mechanism is yet. The real soldiers wear rags on their faces. I’m looking, but I don’t see my child. Things happen to people, and people don’t really understand how easily those things can happen. First they’re an animal, then they’re a volcano, then they’re playing with their cat, then they’re making songs, then they don’t finish the song and they’re jumping into the void from an elevated point.
There are certain things the body loves to do, like making a cross, or an X, or a loop-de-loo. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. People were screaming; people were throwing up because the smoke was so thick. Panic killed those people. The wind was dangerous. We knew it was dangerous, but people wouldn’t listen and more kept coming. They had a vacant stare. They had a stumbling gait. Their heads were drooping. You could see thick saliva dripping from their mouths. Soon they were screaming for help. We saw bodies everywhere. So many were just skeletons. I was standing behind that tree over there. I just kept thinking that it’s so easy to run in a dream without getting out of breath.
Howie Good, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz, is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize for Poetry from Thoughtcrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.
by Ricky Garni
There’s an old Damon Runyan in the bookstore
and the pages were remarkably bright with
an inscription written in fountain pen by a man
named John W. Allgood who was a Captain in
the armed forces and the date was July, 1944.
The inscription read:
A gift from Margaret
If lost, please return to: General Hospital 206, NYC.
Ricky Garni grew up in Miami Florida in the ’60’s. has worked over the years as a bicycle messenger, pizzeria cleaner, bag boy, teacher, wine merchant, composer and graphic designer. He began writing poetry in 1978, and has produced over thirty volumes of prose and poetry since 1995. His work can be found in many online publications, print magazines and anthologies and he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize on seven occasions. His dual volumes “The Tablets of Domino” and “Via” are slated for release in late 2017.
by Nora Pollard
Grassflower, hot hot
Sending imitations of boat sounds to you today
all the little lizards doing push-ups out of view
honey every word I love I
beleaf you, wow
Wow! So much light caught in this beleaf,
it's strong and warm and biggening
I'm in a polyamorous thing with the hills, and the fog wandering through the hills, I'm not sure if they're hills
at this height that I'm at,
how do we classify the inner
edges of extremes?
How did I ever use stairs
before getting scared?
How do we call fame?
Too many heights, a community of Spotify Related Artists with me floating thru kissing
trees I'm trying not to think how high up I am
Flower petals gilded cracking in the heat
I'm whispering @ my parents I need A/C but they're too tall to hear me
I am such a small adult flick me and I ring
Still worried they'll forget the oven is on
Still worried they'll forget me
Hiding in the clothes at Walmart
I need to be here to water things
that are taller than me
My brother is crying every time I repost an article against cops on my sacred social media
I'm crying every time I remember his newest message to me was Happy Birthday 11 months ago
Since when am I loud enough to be loud towards
Nora Pollard is a 23 yr alive gay trans woman living in the pacific ocean on the american colonized islands of Hawai'i. She loves her dog, and her friends, and everything else too. She tweets @tenderpunk_
by Waturi Ekirapa
Today was the first time I went to Betty’s apartment since Daudi died. Betty asked me to get her navy skirt suit for an interview she has tomorrow.
The last time I was there, I was talking to Daudi about I don’t even know what. It’s been almost a month now, but somehow it feels like forever ago - like when you remember that series you thought was pretty good but didn’t get renewed for another season.
As I opened the door to the apartment, I was a little anxious as to what I would see. What would be different? What would be concrete evidence that someone was no longer around? I unlocked the door, pushed it open, and met the L-shaped sectional sofa at first sight. I stood in the doorway, hoping to find something, I don’t know what. Maybe a chalk outline of a body on the sofa, or a faint stench permeating the room, or a mess made of the room. But I found neither. Everything in that living room looked normal, looked neat, looked O.K. I walked around the sofa to the fridge, and inhaled as though I was hyperventilating for only one second. As I walked through that living room, all was quiet but for the hum of the emptied fridge in the corner used for storing Junior’s milk. If any other person were to enter the apartment, they might just think the owners were out of town.
I entered the bedroom and scanned the ready-made bed and Junior’s cot. I opened up the first wardrobe and started looking for the suit. I didn’t want to waste any time. After tossing a few separate items on the bed, an old high school hoodie, a peach skirt suit, a few individual pants and blazers hidden in dry cleaner bags, my eyes started having trouble differentiating between black and navy. I opened up the other wardrobe. That one was Daudi’s. I just stared. His fragrance still on those hanging clothes - about 50% cologne, 50% nine-five. I got paranoid that his spirit was watching me flip through his clothes. I don’t even think I believe in ghosts, but I turned around to look anyway. Nothing. I called Betty, “I don’t see it.”
I left the apartment and brought home the peach skirt suit instead.
In the early evening I took Junior on a walk in his pram. I said a quiet prayer as he looked at all the nature the world around him had to offer. He’d abruptly turn his head right and left, up and down, as if he would miss a falling leaf or a squirrel running along the fence if he didn’t look fast enough. He was engrossed with nature, and so was I, staring into the trees. I spotted the green turaco that we’d seen before on our walks. It was alone again, and I wondered where its partner had gone.
Right now it’s 11pm and I am on Junior duty again.
Playing quietly on my phone are slow guitar songs about ghosts. Betty is asleep in my room. The dogs outside are barking. I cradle my sleeping nephew whose breathing is somewhat steady as his eyelids flicker a little, sensitive to the dim ceiling light. I am watching him, crying the tears for his father that he cannot.
Turiwat is a writing, music-obsessing, ice cream-loving weirdo that lives in the imaginative. She is from Nairobi, Kenya, and is studying to be an artist of life. She whines about her life at mgeni.org.
by Jasper Wirtshafter
My 87 year old
(master of backhanded compliments)
tells me I need
the kindest thing
she has ever said to me.
It’s the first time she has
called me by my new
name, she realized
my hair was now
too long for
have lectured her about
hegemonic masculinity and
queer anarcho-gender mutiny
that I do not so much want to ‘become
a man’ as I want to burn
from the inside.
I took this as
the closest Great-Aunt
Beatrice gets to
Jasper Wirtshafter is a trans spoken word poet from Athens Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Currently, he lives in the least terrible town in Indiana. He performed with F Word Performers, a queer feminist art collective, for four years. His work has been published in A Quiet Courage, Us for President and the forthcoming Not My President anthology.
by Catherine Kwao
She was on afternoon shift and it was almost two
Mama looked smart in her white uniform with a blue belt
I gave her a quirky smile as she patted my head
Picked her handbag and dashed out
I would be walking the same street soon
She would never find out.
I looked at the clock, five minutes had passed, I dashed down the stairs
Adoley was there and Gerti too and some kids from blocks H and G
We were excited about our little adventure to the doctors’ bungalows.
Eight, nine, ten, and eleven year olds
Chattering, laughing, running, shoving, standing
With dusty feet in old flip flops and sweaty faces and clothes.
Indeed we were a sight to behold as we sauntered through the nurses quarters
We took the asphalt road to our destination
A noisy pack we were.
“Shh”, said Nana, as we neared the four feet wall
He climbed and peeped over the wall
There was no sign of Baba Musa the ever present grumpy watchman
He jumped over to survey the area
As we waited anxiously.
‘Wheeee’ went the whistle signal and we smartly silently scaled the wall
Something we had done countless times.
Our mission was to last only five minutes
We made sure not to bring along any novices
Who would increase our chances of getting caught.
Timorously we tiptoed through the withering brown gras
Filling our pockets with stones and pebbles
Nana had found the tree with the biggest ripened
And juiciest ‘saloon mango’ as we called it.
And as our tradition demanded, being last to join the pack
I was to throw the first stone
Missing my target would be a bad sign
It meant we would be caught.
So having eyed my first target already
With celerity and accuracy I threw the first stone
Wham! And down came a big yellow mango
Like a bolt of lightening I was already under the tree
And the juicy mango landed straight into my open skirt
Catching the first mango was a good omen too
I smiled in my quirky manner as stones started flying into the tree.
A few stones came down alone
But most came accompanied by ripe mangoes
Wham! Pa! Whoo! Tata!
Was all one could hear as we brought down every ripe mango
Maame Esi gathered speedily all the good ones into a black polythene
‘Yenko’ shouted Nana trotting ahead.
Like a grasscutter smoked out of its hole
Out came Baba Musa from nowhere wielding a very big long cane
‘Stop there’ he boomed
I ran as fast as possible for the open main gate
Gerti was right behind shouting as she ran, ‘He’s got Kwesi’.
No one dared stop or even look back
Until we were through the main gate
Our friend was writhing as Baba Musa held on to his shorts
With a swift motion he whipped Kwesi’s back
I was glad it wasn’t me as the cane landed on his back
Our friend was crying loudly and pleading
‘Pull down your shorts, I’ll give you six lashes so that you won’t come here again’.
We felt very sorry for our friend
We knew he didn’t like wearing any underwear.
Pleading with tears streaming down his cheeks
We watched him reluctantly pull down his dirty green shorts.
‘Ei! Kwesi! Your bottom is black’, Baba Musa yelled.
We all burst out with laughter.
‘Hey’, he said, turning to warn us
Kwesi slipped out of his grip and run as fast as his skinny legs could take him
Baba Musa was fast on his heels but couldn’t catch up with him
He joined us at the gate and we all bolted across the street
Laughing as Baba Musa hurled insults at us.
We didn’t mind.
After all we had our juicy saloon mangoes
And our friend was free too.
Catherine Kwao is a freelance writer who has been writing short fiction and poetry since 2003. She holds an HND in Marketing from Cape Coast Polytechnic in Ghana, West Africa. She works as a professional marketer in a financial institution in Tema, Ghana, where she lives.
by Lucas Wildner
on your walk back
from the copier. The poems
in your hand
will invite a student
to come out to you
They will not pay
for any of your students
to go to college.
No one asked
what it wanted to be
when it grew up, either.
Lucas Wildner lives in Kent, WA. His current project examines the relationships between internalized homophobia and white privilege. Recent work lives at Entropy, birds piled loosely, Green Linden, and elsewhere.
by Mariel Fechik
all I am searching for / is the purity of / 1000 dogs /
and if this / is too much to ask / then I’ll settle / for
your face while / you sleep in the summer / in the
wet heat / of july / curled against my back /
In the kitchen one evening, I slice little gem
lettuces while I watch my mother grieve into
the television, whistling along to Andy Griffith
and replaying my grandmother’s last voicemail
over and over again. I cut my finger and watch
the red slowly drip into the sparkling globes of
water on the delicate green flesh, like that of
aphids, like that of new grass. My grandmother
comes to taunt me with her presence in dreams
I cannot remember, cannot forget. Her shoulders
feel the same there. My mother’s shoulders are
not the same anymore.
Mariel Fechik is a musician and writer from Chicago, where she works for an educational nonprofit. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cosmonauts Avenue, Lines + Stars, Maudlin House, and others. Her very favorite possession is a ring shaped like a shark mouth, and she eats a lot of brie.
by Tayler Bunge
Her feet smelled of saffron rice
and her palms, of sweet incense and thyme.
Every inch of her flesh was a tea ceremony,
Within her chest she held a tenderness of living breath,
and her toes, the dust of unsettled earth.
I expanded with giving,
my soul open to light,
my breath honored, knees humble.
Between the blades of a heavy hearted back,
And the bones of a heavy handed soul,
I felt the radiance of lasting softness,
laying in stillness
as “here” swelled itself open.
Hands full of flesh and given nothing more than
the gentle ease of a currency with no value
but that which she carries on the bus
between vacancy signs and milky starlight,
I danced like one would without legs–
Tayler is a queer brown woman in Denver who loves her plants and trivia about 90s sitcoms. She’s been writing since she could eat solids and has been published on Thought Catalog. Watch her tweet to herself @teabunzz.
by Carolyn Chung
Who: Pietro, door-to-door Bible salesman, now undressed
What: bare feet on a frozen lake (toes marbled blue-white), a splitting of ice, not loud at all
When: Sunday afternoon
Why: to be engulfed, swallowed up, purged, and sunken
How: fleetingly, alone like always
You were the northernmost giant. Nobody saw your birth, down there at the bottom of a subglacial lake. Skin as tough as tundra. Lungs of ice. Born screaming, and raised by the color white. But you were kind. All day you’d sit on the sea floor with one foot on an ice shelf (two, and it would crack), catching penguins between your bloodless toes. They were never scared of you; they knew how playful you were. On Mondays you’d float over deep water with your eyes open, knowing in the sky nothing but loneliness. It was on a Monday night that you left, your body settling the rain as you drifted south. The bottom dwellers told you not to go, but you ignored the bubbles at your back; you paid no mind to kelp grove rumors. You met her on land. She was lying in the middle of the road, so small. A thing of beauty. She was crying. You would save her, would peel the sadness away like bark on a jack pine. It was only when you picked her up that she screamed. So you put her back down. She looked up at you with fear, then disgust, then no expression at all. I want to save you, you said. I want to peel away your sadness like bark. She shook her head, rolled her eyes. Don’t you know anything at all? She laid back down on the road. You were a dot on the horizon when she could cry again.
Carolyn Chung is a 19-year-old living in Toronto, where her apartment sometimes floods. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FreeFall and Blue Marble Review.
by Kieran Collier
having anxiety // again // same old person // same new me // yikes
the throbbing temple of my skull // the netflix original series of my heart
the slow descent of a hawk // and the grass that bristles // in its wake
wake is a word that’s intentional // the way every word should be intentional
but isn’t // wake // as in // everything after the end // as in // the accidental gasp
of morning // as in // the shadow that leads // then follows // shuffled feet
but the hawk descending // talons blindly clinging to the absence // of prey
or my voice // at my mother’s wake // praying to find a scratch // of response
a quiet snap to ease // the hunger // of ears // and all of this // again
as in // here are the words // I cannot say // here is the bird // caught
in the ache // of my stomach // the caw my throat // cannot grasp
as in // here is // again // a word // I tried to press // intent upon
again // the same old // the same old
Kieran Collier is a Boston based writer and educator. He is the author of When the Gardener Has Left (Wilde Press, 2015) and This to You (Beard Poetry, 2016). His work has been featured in the anthologies MultiVerse: A Write Bloody Superhero Anthology and Again I Wait for This to Pull Apart. He believes in the intersection of writing and education, and that children are smarter than adults. His favorite color is orange.
by Willem Myra
Poem About an Old-Lifer Who Can't Keep Up With the Biotech Today's Youth Use and Abuse
"Get out of my lawn!"
the old-lifer shouted
to the mole-kids
engineered stream of consciousness
i once read a story about a buddhist monk who kept asking twitter if reincarnation was a thing in high school i was fond of latin literature ancient roman orators were better at understanding my plights than contemporary novelists i envision myself an apolide shaped by many cultures yet a cog in none horace once wrote we are just statistics born to consume resources i heavylift every morning to forget how empty the rest of the day is going to be if i close my eyes i can picture my soul in-between lives saying i have died and i still can't find myself
Myra's work has appeared in Litro, The Offing, Likely Red, and elsewhere. He lives in Italy with two cats and a stubborn case of rhinitis. More on him at willemmyra.wordpress.com
by Kayla Bashe
Before the suit, cyborg trainers conditioned your sensation into void
no sympathy for the conquered, no swerving kindness or desire
aiming to wither humanity under chrome.
but when you're encased in gleam
unmasking for only the briefest sanitary moments
it's easy for betrayal to slink in by moonlight
like a hot summer wind.
When I entered your sterile office with translations and tribute
the air-control faltered. So did the chaining of your inward locks.
I can unravel core-planet outposts, corrupt all the territory above your strong thighs. I'll see the curfew dismantled, wine streaking the gutters-
and you, devoid of stratagems, unmasked and sweat-soaked, cybernetic eyes flashing dark gold with want as you beg for the ceasefire touch of a final defeat: Make me your consort, unconquered rebel. Make me your throne.
Already I am the insurrection in your quarters.
I come well-supplied with contraband kisses and black-market depravity. My desires are greater than an empire's reach.
Kayla Bashe is a binational lesbian currently attending Sarah Lawrence College. Her poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Liminality Magazine, and various zines, and her short fiction has appeared in the Outliers of Science Fiction anthology, as well as Solarpunk Press, Mirror Dance edited by Megan Arkenberg, and The Future Fire. She is also the author of several queer romance/speculative fiction novellas. Find her on Twitter at @KaylaBashe.
by Pat Reilly
two cross the meager garden, nothing more than a few grotesque yews drowning in an unmowed mix of nut sedge and fescue.
to host, the state of the yard is not even a consideration worth attending to. to guest, the degrading landscape is an act of aesthetic violence against the neighborhood, although timidity prevents any comment.
reaching the door, host grins warmly at guest, who offers an implausible smile. guest is distracted by conspicuous signs of decay and infestation in the wooden siding of the tiny house. disgust, or pity, pushes guest to speak.
guest: you should have someone look at your house, i think you have termites.
host (angelic and without a trace of concern): thank you.
host opens the door, abandoning all thoughts of insects and ruined wood in an instant. guest, unprepared for this passive but obvious dismissal, struggles to smother pangs of minor humiliation and follows host through the entryway.
from inside, the house seems even smaller. there are exactly two chairs and host invites guest to sit. still agitated, guest accepts, relieved, at least, by the relative tidiness inside the house.
now seated and facing each other, host again smiles.
host: thank you for joining me. i don't often have guests.
guest: of course. (glancing around the room, avoiding eye contact) you seem to favor minimalism in home furnishings (laughs uncomfortably).
host (fully serious): the material poverty of my life has nothing to with the frivolous vanity of any ephemeral movement of fashion.
host's blunt, even derisive, response to the feeble attempt at humor is so incongruous that guest is jolted into a state of naked earnestness.
guest (tentative but sincere): much of my youth was marked by scarcity. having finally reached a point of relative security, the malignancy of my former station, its power to deform human potential, has become increasingly evident. I'm troubled by the possibility that your fundamental needs are being left unmet.
host (serene): lost access to the basic requirements of my modest life is an implausible scenario. money is no concern of mine. i've inherited quite a fortune from my family.
guest (genuinely curious): oh?
host continues as if suddenly unaware that someone else remains in the room. as an audience, guest is reduced to furniture, or less, and host begins to sound like someone reading a sacred text in a sacred chamber.
host (transcendent): while it spares me active participation in the crude system of human economies, my wealth is so completely marginal as an object of my attention that comparing to an abstract entity would be an overstatement.
guest remains silent as the fervor and urgency of the other's voice increases.
host (fanatical): any thought, no matter how vague or transient, of the material extravagance that saturated every aspect of my childhood, fills me with horror and hatred. that is why, several years ago, i sold my things, purchased this small home, and embraced a life of poverty.
host finally displays recognition of the person a few feet away, meeting guest's eyes expectantly.
guest (repulsed): doesn't poverty without risk fail to be poverty at all?
guest is asked to leave.
host buys an expensive car and moves to a gated community in phoenix.
Pat Temple Reilly is a musician and planter of trees in Omaha.
by Jordan Moffat
My Great Idea
I was at the cafe telling Sedge about my great idea.
“You know how you go to the doctor’s?” I said.
“Ya,” said Sedge.
“And you know how you have to take off all your clothes?”