Ouroboros by Gretchen Rockwell

Nature will kill you and then make new things from you.
— Welcome to Night Vale

The first time I saw the sharp silhouettes
I couldn’t fumble fast enough to capture
a photograph: Indian flying foxes, bats remembered

from a Weird ‘N Wild Creatures card collected
at ten, when I thought I wanted to be a biologist
before I realized I’d have to do science. Then I traded

that flying fox card for a Cerberus one, caring more
about the spiderweb of wonder between literary
and literal. These days I prefer nature in its un-

nerving wonders. Who needs Athena splitting Zeus’ skull
when mind-controlling jewel wasps exist, spiking into
lesser insects and hijacking them as a host for their spawn

which eat the corpse inside out and emerge fully formed?
I still have a favorite fantastical creature: the phoenix, whose nature
is self-immolation. In reality, the mechanism is rarely so static as fire,

instead often a living instrument, nature curling in on itself
in an endless wheel. The shadow of death takes the shape of wings
or fangs or the leafy fronds of a fern, unfurling. The lesson is:

nature will kill you eventually, from the inside out
or as another of its incarnations. Still, I prefer its marvels
over myth—how certain seeds can only bloom after being

burned, flowers exhaling open after forest fires, ash
still hanging thick in the air while something
new pokes through: life wriggling out through the cracks.

 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet and supplemental instructor of English at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, RI. Xer work has appeared in Glass: Poets ResistKissing DynamiteNoble/Gas QtrlyFreezeRay Poetrythe minnesota review, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, space, and unusual connections.

Not What I Ordered by Ava Wolf

“I’ll go wherever you’re going,” he said.

He was a chef—no, a cook, because when I said, “You’re a chef, right?” he shook his head and sniffed the air and told me I smelled delectable, which was an inappropriate thing to say for a variety of reasons, but then he said, “I’m a cook,” and I was like, “Oh, a cook,” as if it mattered anyway—and he was fine. Fine. Built like a human man, by the looks of it.

Then I said, “I’m going home,” and he asked if he was coming with me.

I thought about it. I did! I sized him up, wondering what kind of person wanted to sleep with someone they met less than an hour ago, and then I remembered lots of people wanted to sleep with lots of people, but few acted upon desire, so if anything, this was an admirable display of forwardness, rather than solicitation for sex by a stranger who kept telling the same story of his Jewish cousin named Ariel who played violin on the subway.

He’d imitated his Aunt Linda (pronounced aunt, not aunt, which made me nervous) relaying this information to him: “Your cousin Ariel is playing violin on the L Train!” He did this several times. I laughed. I thought it was funny because of the vodka water. I had asked for a vodka soda, but when I came back from the restroom there was a vodka water on the counter and he said, “I got you a vodka water,” and I said, “I wanted a vodka soda,” but politely, like I was pointing out an observation about the weather, and he looked crestfallen, so I waved my hands around and said it was fine, I’d never had a vodka water, there was a first time for everything. He perked up a bit, and now he wanted to sleep with me. My pee was green because of the riboflavin in my multivitamin.

Here were the options: I could tell him the truth, or I could tell him something else.

“It’s a bit of a complicated situation,” I said, stabbing the slice of lime in my empty vodka water. “I would prefer for you to think of it as though I’ve been inveigled into an elaborate and nefarious crime. I don’t want to drag you into anything. I apologize.”

He straightened up in his seat. Our torsos were different lengths.

“I’m a little disappointed,” he replied, looking into my eyes very seriously. This was excellent news. I loved to disappoint men.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I lied.

“If you don’t mind me asking,” he said, “what’s so complicated about it?”

I stood up and slipped on my coat, the nice one I wore to work, and turned to face the cook-not-chef, who was disappointed that I had declined to let him, a reasonably attractive person with a Jewish cousin, sleep with me, a reasonably attractive person with many Jewish cousins. Then, I proclaimed loud enough for the whole bar to hear:

“I’m the other woman!”

I left beaming from ear to ear.

 

Ava Wolf is the author of Year of the Pig (Ghost City Press, 2019). Her work has appeared in Peach Mag, Maudlin House, Occulum, and others. She resides in Philadelphia with her cats, Basil and Juniper. None of them have ever done anything wrong in their lives.

The Lonely Code by Ben Kline

Select: Activity Report // unfinished / select dates // (1987; 2020) // All the times a touch felt like love / total gigabytes per dermal recoil / elasticity : hydration : squirt / [Revise summary]

Filter [smooth] for Z-A descension / (reflection) / useful file://allocation.name / (Query : Peter, where are you?) / Results vary // All the times love fell for sex

Place me between any one / every zero // Repeat into deleted completion / Destination needs no edit : [Click OK] (Are you sure you want to delete?)

(Tapping the Enter key :: nothing happens.)

Revise: Transmit into archive / (Query : Maybe through the black hole / go in (suction) go out (bang)) / Even a universe orgasms // Even a god gets lonely (Query : Were you lonely?)

Singular echo pinging to end / Click OK // Copy of [Report on The Number of Times He Touched Me and Meant It] / (Query : Peter, when did we last touch?)

(A dream? Rewound / New wound /…healed /…erased) [Error detected]

Returning from 1010 / pulled into adjacency // Disc #2404 / 101010101011111000000 // matter : energy reconstitutes all manner of spit and marrow

/ longer the touch, stronger the bruise [ERROR] when the fingertips / lift / [Error Report : He is not sure if he wants to continue.] (Will you bounce back?) (Warning : Too near the event horizon, unable to return.)

Click Save // … // Buffer against system failure // (Analysis : Momentarily I am known : (by you)) / Copied for use (/…for what use?) / Read-only / (Query : What is the absence of touch?)

Click X // (Query : Are you sure you want to lose your changes?) [Deletion complete]

 

Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, writing poems and telling stories, drinking more coffee than might seem wise. His chapbook SAGITTARIUS A* will be published in 2020 by Sibling Rivalry Press. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, My Loves: a Digital Anthology of Queer Love Poems, Theta Wave, Screen Door Review, Homology Lit, Pidgeonholes, Impossible Archetype, and many more. You can read more at benklineonline.wordpress.com