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?”
“And you know how it can be really time consuming?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, you have to go all the way to the doctor’s office, and then you have to wait in the waiting room, and then you go into the office and you have to take off all your clothes and then when they’re done you have to put them back on and then go home?”
“So I’m suggesting that instead of having to do all that, you just put doctors in places where you’d already be going to take off your clothes, like the changing room at the pool. So instead of having to go to a checkup, the doctors just check you up when you’re at the pool changing from your clothes to your bathing suit.”
Sedge just shook his head and frowned. I could tell he was scanning for weaknesses in my plan. Recently he’s been contradicting all my great ideas.
“But not everybody has a pool membership,” he said, satisfied.
“Well everybody should! Swimming’s a really healthy activity. And think about it -- if everybody in the country had a pool membership and got regular doctor’s checkups, everybody would be way healthier.”
“But not everybody can afford pool memberships.”
“Just another reason for Universal Basic Income!” I said. A lot of my conversations these days have uncontrollably steered towards the subject of UBI. Sedge crossed his arms.
“I’m not convinced about this pool changing room slash doctor plan,” he said.
“What’s not convincing you?”
“I went to a new doctor a month ago and they told me they don’t do physicals anymore. They said it’s a drag on the health systems because healthy people getting physicals is just a waste of time, and that you should only go into the doctor if you’re feeling weird. And they said physicals regularly lead to misdiagnoses and wasteful tests. So no more physicals. This new doctor might never even see me naked. Kinda takes the whole premise out of your great idea.”
“I take it you don’t think it’s a great idea.”
“No, it’s a stupid idea.”
I glared at Sedge. He didn’t look at me. He was staring off into the distance, behind me, to the front counter at the cafe. I took an angry sip. It had felt like forever since Sedge had agreed with me on something.
“I think the barista’s a clone,” Sedge said, breaking the silence.
“That same barista’s working the cash every time I come in here, even on weekends. I figure they cloned the original and keep spares in the basement for when she tires out.”
“She’s not a clone.”
“You should at least look for evidence before you settle on a conclusion.”
We finished our coffees and walked in separate directions out of the cafe. I was pretty mad at Sedge for what he said about my great idea. In fact, I’d been pretty mad at Sedge in general lately. He and I are technically best friends although we haven’t really demonstrated that in a long time. I don’t even know if we like each other. We’re always arguing. Friends are kinda weird when you think about it. I mean, I don’t have the same friends I had when I was a kid -- why do I think all my current friends will last? This might just be the dying days of my friendship with Sedge, just like all the many friends that have come before him, and that’s pretty sad to think about. I was feeling pretty sad. Not just about Sedge. Things were weird for me anyway -- I’d been unemployed since finishing my Graduate Certificate in Interactive Media Production and I didn’t have any leads on jobs. But the Sedge thing added to it. I needed some kind of support, kindness, or even recognition from somebody, and I thought I could rely on my best friend for that. But best friends are impermanent. After our coffee meeting, I still felt empty. So I figured the best thing to do for support and recognition was to find somebody in my life whose presence was permanent, somebody who I could depend on loving me unconditionally. I called my Dad.
“Hi son,” he said, answering the phone.
“Do you love me?” I asked.
“Heaps. Why, what’s up? You OK?”
“I’m just not feeling valued today. Still haven’t found a job and Sedge and I aren’t getting along anymore.”
“Well my afternoon’s free. Why don’t you stop by?”
I took the GO Train to Burlington and when I got off there my Dad was, idling the Ford Escape in the kiss & ride section. I hopped in the car, we said hi, and then he started driving. My Dad was wearing a golf shirt, a golf hat, golf pants, and golf cleats.
“Thought we’d go golfing,” he said.
“I don’t really want to.”
“C’mon, it’ll take your mind off whatever’s bothering you.”
“Golfing makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable? Why uncomfortable?”
“Your clubs are worth more than three months of my groceries. Your membership’s more than my yearly rent. It feels so wasteful of me to go golfing when I can barely afford to keep myself alive.”
“You’ll find a job soon.”
“I don’t think I even want a job.”
“Then why’re you complaining about not having money?”
“Having a job shouldn’t be the only way to make a living. If we had a Universal Basic Income, I would be able to be happy and still stay afloat.”
“I don’t get this whole Universal Basic Income thing. How’re they going to pay for it? Take from the rich and give to the poor? I already pay enough taxes. Why should I be giving my money to people who don’t even want to work for it?”
“Pull the car over,” I said. My Dad pulled the car over. “Take out your wallet.” He took out his wallet and passed it to me. I took twenty dollars out of it. “This is your money, right?”
I took took out my wallet and then took twenty dollars out of it.
“And this is my money, right?”
“Close your eyes.”
He closed his eyes, and then I shuffled the bills around in my hands. I asked him to open his eyes and he did.
“Now whose is whose?” I said.
We didn’t end up going golfing. Instead, with our shared $40, we bought quesadilla ingredients and a bunch of beers. Then we went home, made the quesadillas, drank the beers, and listened to the Blue Jays game on the radio as the sun set artistically from our view on the patio. When the game ended, my Dad stood up to make is way to bed. I figured this was my shot to tell him what I wanted to tell him on the phone the day before.
“Hey Dad?” I said.
“I was thinking that maybe instead of having to go to the doctor’s office for a physical, the doctor could just meet you at a place where you’re already taking off your clothes, like a pool change room, and so the doctor will just check you up before you go into the pool. It would save a lot of time and encourage people to go swimming, which is healthy anyway. Is that a great idea or a stupid idea?”
He paused and then he smiled.
“I think it’s a great idea.”
“Thanks Dad. I love you.”
“I love you too. Goodnight.”
Jordan Moffatt is a writer and improviser living in Ottawa. His short fiction has appeared in many places, most recently in Bad Nudes, Bottlecap Press, Matrix Magazine, and water soup press.
by Jane Hertenstein
7 Stages of Replacing Things
Once a shoe fell out of my travel bag. Luckily I found the exact same pair at a thrift store and they were easily replaced. Years later the same thing happened. A favorite shoe got chewed by the dog and I went online. Bam! A replica!
We bought a new TV and within a week the kids had lost the remote. I did a search and got another one. After that I found a spoon from my mother’s silverware set out in the yard. One of the kids had used it to pry at something and it was bent into an L. No problem! I went to Flatwarereplacement.com and got a match!
Then we lost healthcare. I did an online comparison of insurance plans. But with my daughter’s pre-existing condition we were in a bind. The leukemia was manageable and we hoped with such an early diagnosis we could drive it into remission. Instead the cost of treatments were driving us into bankruptcy. We sold the house and downsized.
We continued to lose things. Kids are famous for misplacing stuff like rain boots, notebooks, and backpacks. I took on a second job—but quit when I thought I might lose my mind. Between Casey’s appointments and hospital stays, keeping up with the other kids, and my husband’s depression, I was stretched thin.
I lost weight. Which might be an upside. Except now I needed blood pressure pills and anxiety meds to handle the strain.
Then we lost Casey. It was sudden, though Dan said no it was a long time coming. I guess I just never thought we’d lose the battle. She was such a joy, even in the end. Even when she couldn’t dance anymore, we’d lay there together in her bed and sing “Fight Song.” Even when she couldn’t sing, I’d sing to her, as she slipped away.
All of us were in shock. Dan found it hard to get off the couch. His job gave him paid leave, then unpaid, then a termination notice. We went through the 7 Stages of Grief.
In my despair I Googled Casey. Up popped pictures of other people’s kids, doctors and lawyers with the last name. Who knew that in every state there was a town called Casey? I wanted to move there. Dan did, sort of. He moved out and got his own apartment. He said everything was just too much. I’m not sure what he meant as I felt like I needed more.
I went on an Amazon binge which only put us behind on our credit cards.
Yet nothing brought her back. There was still this crazy black, empty hole—and I was in it staring up from the bottom. Lately I’ve been considering how I might be able to get back, back to that place that if I searched hard enough, believed enough, maybe compromised and split the difference, accepted a tarnished second, that almost everything can be replaced.
Jane Hertenstein is the author of numerous short stories and flash. Her work has been included in Hunger Mountain, Word Riot, Flashquake, and Rosebud as well as earning an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train. Her literary interests are eclectic, evident in the titles she has published: Beyond Paradise (YA), Orphan Girl (non-fiction), Home Is Where We Live (children’s picture book), and two self-published eBooks: 365 Affirmations for the Writer and Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir. Jane lives in Chicago where she blogs at Memoirous (memoirouswrite.blogspot.com/) @memoirjane
by Will Stanier
you did this thing
left me a note
in a public
restroom in not
your handwriting but
how did you do it?
it's a wonderful trick
how many different
ways can the 9
letters of wonderful
Kiss the Royal Fingers
cheek bite gnawing nightly
not a hurricane a tropical storm
I bet I look good with a black eye,
do I look good with a black eye?
what’s your favorite feature of mine
and why is it not my black eye?
people tell me they believe in me
I trust their judgment
now lean in close, the truth is
Baseball is a card game;
I don’t believe it either.
Abutting solidity apart
the ivy circuit
did some wild things.
Like Macbeth with real lightning.
Graphically, I identified the flood line.
So too, the toilet.
Here, assume POV of Rosie the hamster.
You are Rosie; she is you.
You are within your favorite hamster ball, taking a roll outside.
You control a machine
moving you through unknown territory
of a higher realm.
Beware of rain puddles.
Will Stanier lives in a city, where he's a candidate for a degree at a university.
by Sid Joyce-Farley
jaw & heart, fists & lungs OR things that are the opposite of
other things even though they both find a home in the sky
clouds & fireworks
helicopters & escaped birthday balloons
if i know anything i know not to say
sun & moon
“that would be folly!” the elderly wizard in my brain says. i
think because the moon reflects Her light for us when the sun
is away; the wizard says because they both draw your eyes
close and turn your heart & lungs to fire. “you don’t know it but
it’s magic,” he whispers. he is a wizard after all.
birds & hang gliders
“what are you trying so hard for?” says the bird to the hang
glider. “don’t you know you can cartwheel on those legs of
yours?” except, of course, She doesn't, because a bird could
not care less about a hang glider, who stares as She soars
my mother’s voice & my mother’s voice
i don’t know why my jaw & fists are clenching. i do know you
are just trying to help. i’m not sorry yet but i will be, later.
when i brush your hair and you tilt your head back and you
close your eyes, i see your crow's feet are footprints stamped
into the ground the day the sun took flight. fossil-warm earth.
“you don’t know it but it’s magic,” he whispers. he is a wizard
i saw a buzzfeed article called “15 People Who Are Hilariously Petty” and started to cry
It’s hard to bake without an oven but dammit I’m trying. If I’m heartless what are these pangs in my chest?
I want to make honey-bread and sit in a meadow with you. There is an owl in the brush.
Reconciliation? I hardly know her! You crave a rack of ribs and then go all tender-love-heartbreak looking at a pig;
she is rolling in the mud.
My heart is not enough to hold that.
It’s funny, how I miss you. Not funny as in ha-ha funny as in the words don’t come easy like they used to.
I miss you. Hoo —
The flowers are up to your knees. The flowers are yellow and they are up to your knees. The flowers are yellow and they are
up to your knees and you offer the bees some bread in the palm of your hand
because the heart was built for giving back.
They pulled out my canines when I was fifteen, so I remember how hollow feels. It is more deep and wet
and warm than you expect. The ache of your body not-pressing up against me. Hoo —
The mud is cool against her skin. I lie down beside her and it is cool against mine, too. I close my eyes. I
hope owls do not eat bees. I hope they eat honey-bread.
sid j-f is a 19-year-old currently living and studying in western mass. their work has been published in Labrys Magazine. they have double jointed thumbs, which they use to tweet @crocussed.
by Kai Coggin
There is too much darkness
to shine the light of one poem
into a room
and call it hope
and call it anything but
trying to hold a star in your hand
knowing it would burn right through you.
Kai Coggin is a queer Filipino-American poet living in the valley of a small mountain in Hot Springs National Park. She received her B.A. in English, Poetry, and Creative Writing from Texas A & M University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Assaracus, Calamus Journal, Blue Heron Review, Lavender Review, Yellow Chair Review, and elsewhere.
Kai is the author of PERISCOPE HEART (2014) and WINGSPAN (2016), as well as a spoken word album called SILHOUETTE (2017). Her poetry has been nominated twice for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016. www.kaicoggin.com
by Jay Vera Summer
Going In Alone
Ugh. Ryan, Katie’s latest conquest, is an idiot.
“Why are you rolling down the windows?” he yells from the back. “We were hot boxing!”
Katie nods in the passenger seat, either along to the music or in agreement.
“We are also in front of school and don’t want to get out of the car in a cloud of smoke,” I say.
“Whoa. What, are you on your period right now?” Ryan laughs, ashing his bowl into the center console ashtray, seemingly unaware the clean tray is filled with coins.
“Jesus,” I mutter. If he didn’t have super dank I wouldn’t have let him ride along. Ugh, Katie always sucks the worst dicks. Since her parents got divorced, she’s put a different cock in her mouth every weekend. Her new nickname is “Blow Job Queen,” though I am pretty sure the title is self-proclaimed.
I park, roll up the windows, and check myself in the rearview. I drop Visine into my eyes, comb my hair with my fingers, apply lipstick, spray perfume, and get out of the car. Once the others follow, I lock the doors with the key fob and stride across the sunny parking lot toward the art academy entrance, holding my head high. I hear footsteps behind me and turn. Ugh, they’re following me.
“I’m going in alone,” I shout.
I watch Katie grab Ryan’s hand and hear their feet scuffle on the blacktop as they turn and shuffle toward the shop room side doors. Going in alone is the only way to have a plausible excuse for being off-campus midday. I run through what I’ll say if there’s a dean waiting inside the door. On my period. Bleeding. No time to request a pass. Had to get tampons. Need to get to the bathroom right away.
God, I can’t wait till college.
Jay Vera Summer is a Chicagoan living in Florida. She writes fiction and creative nonfiction, and co-founded weirderary, an online literary magazine, and First Draft, a monthly live literary event in Tampa. Her writing has been published in marieclaire.com, Proximity, LimeHawk, theEEEL, and Chicago Literati.
by Shan Cawley
it’s not delivery, it’s CamaraderieTM
i sit in mcdonald’s,
i eat my bacon mcgriddle
and i cry
i cry happy,
i cry good and
i cry the best
i ever have
home was never
a place that required my
presence to exist within its means-
home was always pots banging
dad slamming his car doors
and the sound of
my mother’s absence
home was never
a place until
the people whom
i loved the most became
the muscle surrounding
i never thought i’d know
the chest pain
of genuinely wanting to
go home, to
be home, to
my friends, they gift to me
the most distinct smile lines
my friends, they grant to me
the okay to be selfish sometimes
my friends, they tell me
they love me, and i always
say it back and it’s never
just out of obligation
i would say that time
is a people mover
in an airport and i’ve
never flown before-
they say it’s all we have
but you don’t have anything
if it’s temporary, really
except for the things that aren’t-
the cigarettes irene puts out
on our front porch and
the plate phil broke when
he was drunk, the pretzels
bran leaves behind when he has to go to work
and the rides devin gives me to work,
the voices sean does when he’s high
and the cake christian made, the earl
sweatshirt watercolor that haley made
and someone lost
maybe there’s not a god
that i can thank for this
life, so i’ll just thank
the adherence to all
of the things i know
will last for
the human forever.
Shan Cawley is a current poet and student attending West Virginia University pursuing an MA in secondary education. Her first collection of poems, depression is a thunderstorm and i am a scared dog, is now available through Maudlin House Press. Her second collection, watermelon at an indian buffet, is forthcoming from Varsity Goth Press (Fall 2017). You can follow Shan on Twitter/Instagram @shancawleywvu.
by Daniel Blokh
other, I want to lose the memory of you
picking watermelons from the bin
at the market, holding them softly,
smoothing over the possibility
of each brown bruise,
the possibility of imperfection.
I have no use for the sight
of your face, smooth
as the green bodies spilled
from your hands, each one opening
like a toothless mouth, each one
turning red as a tongue bitten
in hiding laughter.
Father, I taught myself to shave. There was no way
of stopping it. The razor a metal secret against
my cheek, smooth steel appendage in place
of a guiding hand. I should have waited, but you were asleep
and the window caught my eye. Father, I wanted to be clean
as the night sky. I locked the door, looked in the moonlit
window, and held the razor to my skin,
wondering which way the blade should go
and why my cheeks suddenly seemed to sting.
Daniel Blokh is a 16-year-old American writer of Russian-Jewish descent, living in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of the memoir In Migration (BAM! Publishing 2016), the micro-chapbook The Wading Room (Origami Poems Project 2016), and the chapbook Grimmening (forthcoming from Diode Editions). His work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing awards and the Foyle Young Poet awards, and has appeared in DIALOGIST, Permafrost, Blueshift, Cleaver, Gigantic Sequins, Forage Poetry, Avis, Thin Air, Cicada, and more. He's bad at taking naps, which sucks, because he really needs a nap right now.
by Kimberly Ann Southwick
What Can Happen In A Second
today, the opposite—the lights surge not dip.
the pond brims then drains. the video takes minutes
to send. somewhere on Earth, a server registers
each click on each touchscreen—letters imprinting
on its board like the way a typewriter’s keys
press into paper, alter its thickness. the water
fills the roads & I u-turn home, grocery-less.
being below sea level fills my ears with trapped air,
that last breath the toppled tent fails to exhale.
tomorrow, the same, or the opposite again. measure
success in how many inches of rain whatever’s
on the laundry room floor can take before it & the outlets
will never be the same again. reread the voltmeter,
know your amperage, call your brother & bless his heart.
Kimberly Ann Southwick is an Aries with a Capricorn Moon & Ascendant. She is the founder and editor in chief of the literary arts journal GIGANTIC SEQUINS. She has two poetry chapbooks, most recently EFS & VEES (Hyacinth Girl Press, October 2015). Her work was a finalist for the 2016 Yemassee Poetry Prize and a semi-finalist for the Beecher's Magazine 2016 Poetry Prize. This May, she starred in Revision, a production by the Milena Theater Group. She lives in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and is pursuing her PhD in English/Creative Writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She writes about chapbooks for the Ploughshares blog. Follow her on twitter @kimannjosouth.
by Prairie M Faul
The Art Show
Points at the objects
On the wall
Declares them ‘art’
Declares the space after
He thinks I think of him
He thinks I think him
A funny man
I walk behind the walls
Show my lace underwear
To the mirror
Declare it ‘art’
& everyone applauds
The flowers say ‘Fuck it’
In sun soaked
With dollar coffee
Held between their thighs
Look at all this
They put down
On our heads
Touch these shoulders
Running down the neck
Look how this
Prairie M. Faul is a Cajun Poet and flagrant transsexual currently residing in Philadelphia. She is a Sag Sun / Virgo Moon / Cancer rising. Her collected works include in the House We Built (Bottlecap Press 2017), Fire-House 23 (self published 2017), and Burnt Sugarcane (GloWorm Press, 2016). Find her on twitter @MotsduPrairie and IG @ex_wife_material
by Joe Rupprecht
I fill my mouth with actual dandelions and think of you
I do this every morning in the dewy bushes
in the dirt patch of my cold dawn I find
pieces of what used to be a bird
feather of red beak broke in the crack of it
and wake up in the mid gloam to sing of you
we stitch our thoughts to their time of day
I want to cut the sun in half in my dreams with you
what a place to think up and do nothing with
it’s like when I look out the window to the dark
and see a whole room that I’m in
and there’s a body that I’m in
and there are so many ways to forget what feels lost already
I was buried in the earth
your fingers were like roots of a tree
so then why does it feel like I’m lying
who told me it was some other way
who made the night into a thing we call silence
Joe Rupprecht lives in Syracuse, NY. His work has been published or is forthcoming in New Delta Review, Entropy, Coffin Corner, and Spy Kids Review. His microchapbook, "Faggy Bird Poems," will be a part of Ghost City Press' 2017 summer microchapbook series. He tweets @heterofobe
by Ben Niespodziany
Meet American John Simpson
It's admirably American to introduce yourself with your full name
just like John Simpson.
“Hello, I'm John Simpson.”
Retired but a man
that could have been found
decades past in the desert,
in Nevada, New Mexico,
depending on the weekday, wife number.
Retired, like I said, John Simpson
relaxes on the beach in a different country but he'll still remind you that he's American by wearing a Mississippi Roll Tide shirt, by mining for whiskey
handshakes every Thursday night
over calypso blues, by requesting
Lynyrd Skynyrd songs to a local
who doesn't understand the 'Freebird' joke.
You better believe John Simpson's horse, who waits for him down the street,
has his same goddamn last name.
Ben Niespodziany is a full-time left-handed librarian at the University of Chicago, where he writes poems about unruly patrons, cold brew coffee, and fingernail moons. Last week, Niespodziany released Dress Code Aquarium, a free collection of 40 prose poems and microfictions.. His music writing has appeared on Bandcamp, Pigeons&Planes, Viper Magazine, and others, but this is the first time having his poetry published online.
by Alex Russell
I Have Spent Three Years And Over £27,000 On Researching The Game ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ And This Is My Dissertation
the best way to win
rock, paper, scissors
is to hug your opponent
I Know It’s Legal To Put A Baby In A Sweater, But If I Put A Baby In 100 Sweaters, That Would Probably Be Considered Child Endangerment
my question is
how many sweatshirts
can i put on a baby
before it becomes
an illegal act
Love Is A Basketball Game And You Are Dunking On Me
for your shaq attack
Alex Russell writes sometimes, loves all the time, and occasionally attempts to make himself goofy web 1.0 websites. he'd really appreciate it if you read his chapbook, maybe validated him online, and went to www.alexrussell.info
by Tim Lynch
Giving Someone Your Leash Is Hot Until They Let Go
A heart breaks loudly & for a long time
I want to tell you good things. about you
As long as you love me—what an ism
How many sad white poets does it take to regret everything
Grief is so much easier when they're dead
I'm glad you're not dead
Nothing here is quiet enough
Nothing will save me like this
Tim Lynch has poems forthcoming or published with Yes, Poetry, Occulum, Connotation Press, and more. He has directed various workshops for young writers through Rutgers University in Camden, NJ & conducts interviews for Tell Tell Poetry. He would be delighted to meet you on Twitter & Instagram @timlynchthatsit.