Cadaver by Tiffany Belieu

after the fall
a piece of death
was put inside

my bicep funeral
flex tell me
what belongs

to us entirely
threaded as we are
veins, blood and interstates

keeping contained
we grow slick
as the pulse of parts

covered in skin
I’m grateful as I look
at the plots,

wonder who is left
whole, who
spared a bone,

a heart, a lung, a marvel,
bodies magnificent
in their expansion

 

Tiffany Belieu is a poetry late bloomer. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Meow Meow Pow Pow, Collective Unrest, The Cabinet of Heed, and Moonchild Magazine, among others. She loves tea and cats, and can be found on Twitter @tiffbot.

The Unreliable Narrator Apologizes by Chris Haven

I never meant to mislead you. I know you are suspicious of surprise endings, and I have done my best to represent all the facts as I knew them.

If I told you the sun kissed my face on the day I was born, does it matter if in fact it was cloudy? If you trust me to walk down this path, are you not moving with your own feet? If at the end you no longer believe me, have I not given you something? Something which you did not have previously?

It’s fair to say that people are fascinated with me. Love to study me. This would not be so had I given you merely ordinary knowledge. So dull. Shouldn’t everything be a clue? That glance, this gesture.

Here, in this mystery that we’re in together, shall I be the detective? No, you be the detective. Let’s take turns, see what we can find. How will you know the one who loves you? Your true calling? The safety, and the danger?

The sun is setting, and it’s getting harder to see here in the dark. What is this that we hold in our hands? If I tell you that I hold my own heart in my hands, will you believe me? Would you believe the one you love? If I tell you that I hold your heart in my hands, will you let me carry it? If I tell you that you hold my heart in your hands, what will you do with it?

Come, let’s look for some more clues.

Soon it will be so dark we won’t be able to see each other. It’s too late now to turn back. We don’t really know each other that well, it’s true. But the darker it gets, the more we have to hold to our trust. Please don’t suspect me. There’s only a little ways more to go. I know it’s late, and you’re getting hungry. So am I, but I will share what I have with you.

I didn’t want you to know this earlier, but I’ve foreseen this problem. I have taken care of you. What we have in our hands, they are really apples.

It’s okay. Go ahead.

 

Chris Haven has short prose in or forthcoming in Cincinnati Review miCRo, FRiGG, Atticus Review, Jellyfish Review, Electric Literature, and Kenyon Review. He teaches writing at Grand Valley State in Michigan. Find him on Twitter @ChrisLHaven.

Freedom Song by Alcian Lindo

Freedom Song

Alcian Lindo is a poet, singer and songwriter from Oakland, California. She studied English and Music at UC Davis and is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing with an emphasis in Poetry from Mills College. When she is not in class, writing or singing, she is advising high school students within the Oakland Unified School District, ensuring that they are college and career ready. Alcian is currently working on her first book of poetry to be published in the near future.

Squirrels in the Attic by Jenny Fried

If you follow my spine you will find the way I live here, flag up on the mailbox, arms stiff under the weight of the roof. In the mornings I crack eggs with my toes and cut myself on the shells. When the mailman comes I cover my face with my hair and wait for the sun to come down.

My dearest Colonnade, he says today, the weather is warm in Phoenix. I got a dog. I went drinking with some friends last night, and I couldn’t help but think how the dragonflies here live only one day. There was a pair on the stool next to me, locked together. I wanted to squeeze them between my fingers knowing they would die tomorrow.

Thinking of you, all the best,

 G.

I can hear the shingles cracking above me. How they breathe and strain under every step of the little feet! He will write me tomorrow I am sure, another G, another dog, another colonnade. He will be in Phoenix D.C. Iowa City Montreal Davenport Dallas Anne Arbor, the cicadas, he will say, do you remember the stars?

If you follow my spine you will find the things he leaves here, letters and letters and autographed pennies, kept under glass so the marker won’t run. You will find me crouched on a dripping couch, tambourine skin stretched over the sky. There are squirrels in my attic who play with little feet, hide nuts in my mailbox and chew on the flag. I keep my eggs by the stairwell, painted in red, broken teeth pointed at the slope of the rail. I always say I’ll leave them this time, but every morning I smooth down their points with my toes, and the little feet come tumbling down.

 

Jenny Fried is a writer living in California. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Cheap Pop, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and X-R-A-Y. Find her on twitter @jenny_fried.

Uncle Lazarus has a magic trick by Cheyenne McIntosh

he’s come to live with us now that he can’t go home
after he tried to set fire to Mary and Martha in the middle of the night,
weeping about how his old man touched him, back in the Old Country

now there’s a restraining order and a court date, so Uncle sleeps
at the foot of my bed, spilling his drink in my bedsheets
and telling stories from day-trips to the family lake

he wakes me up early this morning, with a treasure to show me:
I follow him through the house, hearing Bathsheba’s breath through the walls
as she sleeps, knowing the rules of being alone with Uncle

there’s an overturned glass waiting for us on the bathroom counter:
inside a cluster fly, the kind that slips in through our windows for winter
before dying, leaving behind a honey smell and their eggs within our walls

these are easy flies for trapping – they float lazily from room to room,
easier to catch and kill with their speed and size – and Uncle has drowning plans,
carefully lifting the glass to insert a straw filled with water, his dirty finger

a stopper until the placement is right and he rains down his prey, the fly
struggling at first before giving up – its tiny insect lungs filling with water,
its delicate wings wet and heavy and immobile – and this is the first living thing

I have ever watched die. Uncle watches my face, his dirty finger tracing the
tears on my lips before he pulls a salt shaker out of his pajama pocket,
the one he uses at night for his tequila game, licking his hand before shooting back

he buries the fly in the salt and tells me the story about that time
he tried to teach my mother to swim in the lake and she almost drowned
because he was drinking and all little girls know how to swim in the Old Country

it’s easy to drown, he explains as the salt dries up the water,
the cluster fly now awake again and climbing out of its salt-grave

 

Cheyenne McIntosh is an undergraduate at Franklin College, where she writes about gender-queer studies in science fiction. She’s the Leading Poetry Editor of Brave Voices Magazine and an editorial intern for Juxtaprose Magazine and Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in carte blanche, Likely Red Press, Digital Americana Magazine, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere. In 2018, she was named as one of Indiana’s Best Emerging Poets and received her first Pushcart Prize nomination. You can find her @crm_writes.

Hypotheticals by Zach VandeZande

A person wakes up one morning to find that they are sad. This is not news, as a person is often sad. The sadness that a person feels does not require a reason, but a person, being rational, seeks one anyway. And then, from there, maybe a solution could be looked for.

It might happen like this: a person sits up in bed, prepares to live a whole day, uses a cell phone to watch a video of a dog eating pizza, and then is forced to reckon with their sadness. A person might wonder how universal their experience is without that universality or lack thereof causing a further wrinkle to the sadness that they experience. This is of course allowed and possible and even happens, sometimes. A person might suppose that focusing on the universality of experience might even be a kind of solution to sadness. Though in some—even many—cases it isn’t.

Or else a person might rise immediately, skipping the phone-in-bed part of the morning, looking for the dew-dappled new feeling of young daylight. In that case there might perhaps be something in the air worth breathing in, or streaks of yellow pollen on all the cars, or actual chirping birds—birds not existing only as the providence of the proverbial—or just a chance at seeing people dressed nicely for work or school might be enough to cause a forgetting of sadness. A person might need only to forget for a minute for the sadness to be gone. Sadness might be as fleeting as joy.

If not, though, a person might search for places to go on vacation. A person might stay in playing video games all day, claiming illness. A person might masturbate or have sex with a stranger, might take sadness out for a drive or might just take sadness out on someone else. A person might get a hermit crab at a store in a beach community and make it a little beachy home in a plastic terrarium bought for that purpose. There’s so much a person might do, each if so crowded with thens. And is this abundance a part of the sadness, or is it rather that out of that abundance only one thing ever happens?

Finally, a person might invent for themselves some kind of framing device to bracket off the things that they feel into discrete units of meaning. They might make a list of reasons they feel sad and reasons they shouldn’t. They might spreadsheet or bullet journal the mess of feeling until it reveals its way to be clean. They might write a story, even, that puts their sadness at such a remove that they no longer have to hold on to it. Imagine that. Imagine a person so foolish and desperate.

When a person arrives at the beach community, they might stop at a lunch stand and order a sandwich and two kinds of chips. They might wonder how they would write it all down. Is it a west coast beach or an east coast beach? It doesn’t much matter, probably, except in the brand of chips available, in the particular texture of décor. Are there surfers, or are there retirees walking their black labs? Are there rocks, driftwood, the placental bag of a dead jellyfish, a kind of life so foreign as to be unrecognizable and new to a person? Will a person meet someone? Will a person convince a friend to come along? Will a person feel connected to nature or to people or to god/existence/their own eager self? And what of the sun in the sky? Will it be beautiful today? Will a person find it beautiful? And can someone here tell me if there’s a next?

 

Zach VandeZande is an author and professor. He lives in Ellensburg, Washington (sometimes) and Washington, DC (sometimes). He is the author of a novel, Apathy and Paying Rent (Loose Teeth Press, 2008), and a forthcoming short story collection, Liminal Domestic: Stories (Gold Wake Press, 2019). He knows all the dogs in his neighborhood.

Bleed and Breathe the Air by E. Kristin Anderson

I:

This Could Take All Night

From the sea floor I wait for everyone. Say goodbye
to the generator, my blue wire, just circles through skin.
I’m not high, not drinking down the spoils to save me,
numb and cold in my murdering dress, I line up alone.

Unwind me in a dream burn—these dreams laced
and lost in you again, the clean night our last sail
and I swear—an aurora will die and tether us
so I learn the ordinary—the blood is wearing well.

I’m frayed around the ends, tied to the next home
and I’m red, red, now—taking pleasure in breaking
down. That day my stitches were someone to know;
still my motored heart is firing on and on and on.

I promise to find glitter, to face angels, to want—
you started it, this breakout, this dizzy revolution.

 

II:

In the Lost and Found

You started it—this breakout. This dizzy revolution
can’t change back. Truth hollow, I live in the sky tonight
satisfied with the burn, wasting time, my insides numb
into a bullet, this blast a cure for the lights, a riot cry.

I greet the sun when it arrives, the glitter we climb
and here—a hello collides, a tangled demand found
where I quit metamorphosis. I believe in sick. I wind
around wires. Tonight I’m leaving. The stacked dead

are much too proud for my dreams, a wonderful mess.
Aging is complication; I’ve found no pleasure in home.
Yesterday is left underground, these stars spin a noose
calling unanswered, calling unanswered, the divide down.

Here aurora is a bruise, a life, an ordinary embrace—
hello is how I get somewhere in my blood dress.

 

III:

Trade Your Outside In

Hello is how I get somewhere in my blood dress—
clean and cold, I’m killing beautiful for the sun.
And here I quit the bastards and sink a wire noose,
calling underground for dizzy truth: you’re a friend.

Mirror, mirror, I cry to the rafters, to bright hell
and my skin is free to take all night on revolution.
Swear you’ll never tell: tonight I like my life tangled—
one of these days I’ll be more than a mannequin.

If we fired down this divide, left embracing the dead,
I’d haunt it, demand heart. I’m not nursing patience
and their wearing burn is hollow, stacked and faded.
Next year life runs out; we sleep and dream in stitches.

I could stay sick, the hole we fill with breaking night;
from the sea floor I wait for everyone: Say goodbye.

 

This is a found poem. Source material: Foo Fighters. There Is Nothing Left To Lose, Roswell/RCA, 1999.

 

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet, Starbucks connoisseur, and glitter enthusiast living in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90’s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and Hysteria: Writing the female body (Sable Books, forthcoming). Kristin is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including A Guide for the Practical Abductee (Red Bird Chapbooks), Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time she worked nights at The New Yorker. Find her online at www.EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter @ek_anderson.

Deer. Us. by Arlene Ang and Valerie Fox

The summer the deer moved in was our last chance to move out. They camped on the lawn all day and dropped suspicious pellets on the grass and walkways. Our mother turned into a frenzy of shouting. She spent hours shaking and throwing household objects at them—hammers, different Bibles, watering cans, shoes, and once a broken chair. However, they would simply stamp their hooves in her direction or ignore her. My brother Simon and I watched the situation worsen from our second-story bedroom window. We had no money, but we stayed cool on “borrowed” ice cream. The deer, we figured, were less lucky. People didn’t come over to bring food or pat their cheeks because their father had run off with the gas station floozy.

Then came our mother’s obsessive redecoration. She covered over the kitchen walls with birch bark and pages from Bass Master and Gourmand Highlights. Most nights she stayed up rearranging the living room furniture. “See? We’re in New York now,” she said. “We don’t need to move out to change our environment or have a better life. It’s all about interior design.”

Simon accepted this without question. He was four years younger than I was and only knew about our mother’s “salad days” (her expression) based on the practice of historical tableau. He usually got to hold the colors while I jumped over a small hill and yelled, “Mulligan!” This kept us occupied after the cable got cut off. I also started studying deer behavior and writing stories about their hidden relationships. Simon could barely read. It didn’t stop him from flushing my notes down the toilet or breaking my pens in half. He believed that fictional characters were works of the Devil and could possess anyone who read about their lives.

We were on our 67th day of eating cold cheese sandwiches for lunch when an anonymous postcard postmarked Velva, Wyoming arrived. Our mother had been lying all these years about having a twin sister. Fortunately, I intercepted this message before anyone could read it. I hid it between the pages of The Deer Hunter, which I kept under my mattress. I wish I could say I lost track of time or that summer went by in a blur, but when you’re young you keep track of everything. Every hour, like a white lie or betrayal, told a story that was connected to a spider web of past and future hours.

Simon’s fears grew horns the day our mother decimated all her potted plants by watering them. I thought it was some sort of badass voodoo and laughed. Simon and our mother weren’t amused. Around the house, leaves and flowers turned black and littered the floor like charred suicide notes. That was when I noticed that deer had really black eyes that bore holes through walls. Their odors came in through these holes. And their fleas.  They stood around in groups, hemming us indoors, making silent nodding gestures. Whenever the back screen door banged and waved, they would freeze. Then their strange and powerful hind legs would jerk around like Aunt Jill when she had one too many gin and tonics (in our mother’s scenic memory). Add to this a disproportional lawn elf, and you begin to see it through my eyes. Deer body language changed most hours, on the hour. They seemed organized in their drinking, taking turns to share the water that collect in trash can lids.

One doe set herself apart by her use of Spanish, aimed especially at Simon. He had a deep love of animals and worried a lot about those facing modern-day problems like sadness, diabetes, loss of a special connection to the land. It was no wonder he had a hard time learning languages. His operating system ran on emotion, not English, much less Spanish. Teacup—the doe with a kettle-shaped scar on her nose—bullied him with demands only he could hear. Little by little he began to spend all his time hiding in the closet with his collection of Civil War soldiers for protection. After that, he stopped being Simon.

Like a happy ending, that’s when our father came back home. He was drunk and almost ran over our mother, who wasn’t exactly sober either. The deer had gone for the night, but a raccoon managed to steal into the house. Simon observed all this from our bedroom window, his plastic vampire fangs gleaming like upside-down horns in the moonlight.

 

Arlene Ang and Valerie Fox have been collaborating on writing fiction and poems for many years, and have published work in Juked, Apiary, Thrush, MadHat Lit, New World Writing, Cordite, qarrtsiluni, Admit 2, and other journals. They’ve written a novel together, The Honeymoon Series, (as yet unpublished). They have also published a compilation, Bundles of Letters Including A, V, and Epsilon (with Texture Press). Ang lives in Spinea, Italy, and is very active in the yoga world. Fox lives in central New Jersey, U.S., halfway between New York and Philadelphia, which is convenient for her teen-aged daughter (who is, luckily, obsessed with theater).

Aurora Borealis by Erik Fuhrer

Swallow whole planets of double helixes and calculate the time it takes
to destroy an organ without quite draining all the blood from the body
Precision is key to this process so that breath is still a color we can admire
swirling in the aftermatter like the aurora borealis in a sky I will never see

If it gets to the time when the body is only a shudder
close the windows
shut the aurora borealis out
It was never here anyway
It was just an echo of light
bouncing off the body of a bluebird
who is the color of breath when it is newborn

Send the double helixes to the lab
Test for light    birdshit         an answer to the reason that the body can’t stop
becoming aurora borealis

I pray to god but it is only aurora borealis
Aurora borealis is the heart when it becomes an organ rather than a pump
Aurora borealis is your face when you see the aurora borealis
Aurora borealis is double helixes spinning genetic code

 

Erik Fuhrer is the author of Not Human Enough for the Census, forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. His work has been published in Cleaver, BlazeVox, Softblow, and various other venues.