aubade/alba by Isaura Ren

before the dusk shrugs off its
            velvet, let me wrap us up.
you understand some moments must
            be private, clutched so tight the
tendons tremble. others may lay bare
            their naked faces to the sun—
not us, not quite yet. not with you
            in me in you, hand on hand
on pillow. never mind the threat of
            day that’s spilled along the sill.
never mind the neighbors, the glare
            of their headlights. where
curtains fail, our blankets never will,
            this silk cocoon our kingdom.
knight me. make me a body worthy
            of flight. i’ll draw my wings
against the coup of dawn, a shield
              for you and me. like this,
we’ll flit from room to room, moths
              on the wrong side of the glass,
fleeing its eastern rise and languid
              western fall. let’s soar past
hallways and laundry, avoid the
            cold of open doors, let in no
ghosts but each other. you could stay
            forever if we time this right.


Isaura Ren (she/they) is a poet, writer, and the Editor-in-Chief of perhappened mag. Her poems have appeared in After the PauseKissing DynamiteSea Foam Mag, and more. She would do anything for love, but she won’t do that. Find her on Twitter @isaurarenwrites.

Tchaikovsky by Peter Krumbach

It was when I scrubbed that hideous yellow rug that I found him under the bed. Surprisingly odorless, considering he had to have lied there for all those years. He was so small. Maybe a shade over five feet, a teal cravat still tied under his chin. Pyotr Ilyich? I said, wishing he’d open his eyes and exhale some Saint Petersburg haze. But he just lied there with his brown shoes and hands tucked into his waistcoat. I picked him up and carried him to the kitchen. Why was he so light? Had the bulk of death long been sucked out? I sat him in the chair and tapped on his chest. The tip of his tongue slipped through the beard. I ran to the bathroom to fetch a brush. I wanted to comb his hair before taking him to the station. But when I returned, he was under the table, face down in a puddle of milk. Still no pulse. I mopped, then remembered the thick roll of butcher paper and twine in the pantry. Wrapping the head first, I swaddled him down all the way to his feet. We got on the trolley at Prudhomme and Main. The conductor charged me extra for the swordfish under my arm. By the time we got to the station, he’d become heavier. I leaned him against the wall outside the restroom. It felt good to splash cold water on my neck, then on the mirror, study my warped reflection in the droplets gliding slowly toward the center of the Earth. I listened for their music, but only heard the soft ringing in my ears. When I stepped out, he was gone. I circled the hall for a while, lighting a cigarette, peeking under benches, then bought two tickets to Trenton and headed for the Lost-and-Found. The clerk dipped beneath the counter and produced an umbrella, a set of dentures, and four unclaimed hats. I could hear the train pulling into the station. The announcer coughed over the loudspeakers and as I ran, it felt as though the deceased and the unborn were watching me from afar. I could almost see them, in black and white, the distance taking away their faces. Out on the platform, the cars stood quiet, sooted, the windows redirecting light. I thought about the restroom mirror, how it was wide enough to leap through, if I were that kind of a man.


Peter Krumbach has work in or coming from Beloit Poetry Journal, The Citron Review, Copper Nickel, jubilat, The Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Quarter After Eight, Salamander, Wigleaf, and others. He lives in California.

Fehler by Lauren Parker

I know from all of the work around poems that they are supposed to mean something. Even if that something is yelled with coffee breath at someone else as you bang your fist upon the table of a writing workshop that you saved up to go to and you’re going to make the most of dammit. So let me start by saying this poem is about rain falling.

The rain fell as I counted six large rocks I kicked with my right toe before I tried a rock too big for my toes and too sharp for my feelings and despite being angry already and being angrier still, I felt all the fire go out of me.
I change my mind, this poem is about sadness. Sadness is just anger you had already that wastes your time and the toes of your shoes.

The anger I had already burned me awake in the mornings, and I paced the floor of our shitty apartment with the dog piss seeped deep into the carpet padding so we couldn’t get it out, even though it wasn’t our dogs and it wasn’t our piss and it wasn’t our carpet. The stains were ours. The smells were ours. We paid for them.
Let me start again, this poem is actually about carpet maintenance.

The carpet is where every speck of skin I shed and you shed and we shed all landed to keep the ones from before company. The carpet was angry with skin cells, in that they were there before and would be there after us and would continue to collect until someone ripped up the carpet or burned the place down.
This poem is about loss, we lost each other and gained a carpet.

When we lost each other my life was brittle and vitamin deficient. The fire in my chest burned so hot I was molten while molting, a volcano shedding crust, journal entries were just lists of things you missed, bullet points of how I’d changed and you didn’t see them.
This poem is just a list.

The list is now my past. It’s a to-do of what I have done or has been done to me, grains of sand eroded and deposited and I’m now new current, new coral, new fish.
This poem is actually about the ocean, which I now live near.

I live near this ocean and I have only been once, waded up to my waist to forget some new old love, and feel the shifting of ground under me until I am just kicking against tide. I do not care that it is cold, I do not care that my toes are numb and have kicked six large rocks. My scratched skin angry and throbbing and the water soothes it.
This poem is about how cold kisses can be the best ones.


Lauren Parker is a writer based in Oakland. She’s a graduate of Hiram College’s Creative Writing program and has written for The Toast, The Tusk, Ravishly, The Bold Italic, Daily Xtra, Pulp Magazine, and Autostraddle. She’s the winner of the Summer of Love essay contest in The Daily Californian and the Vachel Lindsay poetry prize, and is the author of the zine My Side of Our Story. She produces a monthly reading series in the Bay Area called Cliterary Salon, and embarrasses her family on Twitter @laurenink.

There’s a Trick with a Knife by Meghan Phillips

The knife thrower picks her volunteers based on how they’ll look with their backs against her fake wall, their wrists restrained in little Velcro loops. How the man in the striped t-shirt will look with an apple on his head. How the girl in the sundress will look with a balloon in either hand. Their lips softened to a surprised “o.” A perfect little gasp when the apple slices, when the balloon pops.

She picks her volunteers based on how they’ll look tumbled in her floral sheets. How they’ll fill up her trailer at the night end of the midway. Mouths wrapped in a surprised “o” as she drags a tooth down their neck, drags a nail down their thigh. A perfect little gasp as she thinks: what if I slip just this once.


Meghan Phillips is a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her flash fiction chapbook Abstinence Only is forthcoming from Barrelhouse Books. You can find her writing at and her tweets at @mcarphil.


Dear Kevin by Parker Logan

Your cologne smells like what my grandfather wore
to church on Saturday afternoons, sliding on, over his black dress socks,
his older-than-dirt penny loafers with a small
brown shoe horn, cornering in his foot with the gentleness
of an alligator easing it’s way from the cold waters of a river
to the warm muddy banks of a runoff pond.
He would leave us to go to church, then, which I was happy about
because it meant more time to myself
and the television and less time with him watching me do that.
I could be who ever I wanted, watching shows with superheroes
and scientists who bred their babies in a bottle.
He would be back in an hour and a half and complain
about traffic on I-4 before seeing me and my brothers in the living room
watching cartoons where the devil had claws
and was man in a woman’s gown, and he’d whistle and say
hey guys, let’s cut it out, meaning the TV, and he’d walk
to the remote and turn it off, throwing that too-strong-
to-take-deep-breaths cologne at us, the one that smells just like
your cologne does, Kevin, as you douse yourself at the foot
of our bunk beds and decorate the whole house
in an aroma of shut-that-gay-crap-off smell, that too-polite-
to-be-anything-more-than-stern waft. Under pretense of being the good guy,
the neighbor who takes care of his lawn, you’ve got claws
the sizes of wine bottle openers, wit like a brick
and a smell so keen it makes me want to throw up:
I don’t like you Kevin Avila. I don’t like you one bit.


Parker Logan is a student at Florida State University and is the president of FSU’s Poetry Club. His work has been featured in The Daily Drunk, and is forthcoming in The Allegheny Review and Pretty Owl Poetry.

Satellite of a Satellite of a Satellite by Avra Margariti

It’s been fourteen days since my wife made good on her threat to launch herself into space. Locked in accidental lunar orbit, she spins around the moon and her own axis. Meanwhile, I’m getting tired of the stillness in our house. The silence.

I dial the moon base number I now know by heart. Ask the operator, “What’s taking the rescue team so long?”

Luna’s lone operator recites some excuse or other—construction accident in the asteroid belt, freighter lost in space, giant squid invasion. I picture the operator behind an old secretary desk, filing her nails in-between managing the call center.

“Put me through to my wife, please.”

The operator sighs. “She doesn’t want to speak to you.”

Her and her pride. I picture my wife going round and round, acting like she could come down any time she wanted.

“Will you give her a message?”

The operator hums her assent.

“Will you tell her I miss her?”

The call disconnects before I can ask the operator if my wife misses me, too.

I wheel my old telescope onto the balcony and watch my wife orbiting Earth’s satellite the way she used to orbit me. Her luminous skin reflects all the stars and spilled dust of outer space. The unknowable black holes of her eyes seem to swallow the matter around her. I’ve heard it’s cold, up there, and she freezes so easily, toes chilly at night, fingers twitching with minute shivers.

I call the operator again to say, “She likes soup. Can you send her some French onion soup?”

The operator exhales. Drawn-out. Long-suffering. I hear her clicking buttons.

“You want any croutons with that?”

The operator is perpetually exasperated with me. It makes a girl wonder. Is she lonely up there? Does she enjoy the solitude my wife and I have disrupted with our melodrama? All these days—wax and wane—and my telescope has never once caught her leaving her Luna-based station.

I realize the line is still connected, but quiet. Static-y with the sound of our syncopated breathing. That is, until the operator asks, “What was the fight about?”


“When she left you. What did you two fight about?”

She didn’t leave me, I want to shout loud enough I’ll be heard in space. All I say is, “I can’t remember anymore.”

Hum. Click. Soothing, strangely.

As I wheel the telescope back inside, clutching the phone tight between my chin and shoulder, I am reminded of my mother. How she once told me adulthood means losing people more than you get to keep them. Later, I can’t help taking another peek through the lens of my telescope, the view obscured by the smudged window. The cream glob drifting toward my wife could be her favorite French onion soup. The bright glint on her face could be a smile. But meant for me, or for the operator?

“Do you talk to her?” I ask the operator some rotations after that. Her voice is all buttered toast and golden sunlight, at least when callers like me don’t irritate her. A good voice to hear in the cold and dark, I suppose.

“Of course. Days feel long on Luna.”

Days are long here, too. Such is the interconnectedness of satellite systems.

The landline’s cord around my fingers cuts off my blood circulation. “Do you talk about me?”

Silence. I hate her silences. The operator isn’t exactly friendly, but hers is the only voice I’ve heard in so long, sometimes it slinks and settles into my bones through the distance between us.

I go to bed—my wife’s side—and picture her and the operator chatting through their headsets while my phone remains silent. My wife explains how to pair wine with soup, then laughs as she and the operator ponder how aeration works in space. She admits, all soft and confidential, that launching herself into space, then being pulled into accidental orbit, was worth it.

Why? the operator asks. And my wife says, Because I got to meet you.

My dreams that night orbit them both.


Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. Her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Forge Literary, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and other venues.

stillborn by Chlesea Balzer

night heaves its weight
at the half-wild farm.

I have filled my day with words
no one would sing —

sadness like tussocks parading the ground.
today the crisis could not take me.

my body became new machinery.
finally alone with it, I turn in.

each feeling needs all of the senses.
denial has done the hard work

of admitting only the truth I could hear.
it held the heavy base of a joy I mistook as my own.

now handed over, I take up the pain:
burst balloon. rinse torn tissue away.

not all blood is a sign of injury —
the body’s doors open.

we cannot say when a thing
must be put back, buried, begun.

some babies are born on the kitchen floor
in the swift grace of choicelessness.

our ask is to lay out soft blankets
and wait with what’s in labor,

to recycle the pleasure that’s passed.
sighing back breaches of sorrow,

I lie down next to its face
and hum.


Chelsea Balzer is a therapist, writer, and the founder of Big Feels Lab, an organization empowering people to heal from injustice together. Her writing has been featured in a variety of publications including Elephant Journal, Plainsongs, Cigar City, and Omaha Magazine, and her debut book, A PITY PARTY IS STILL A PARTY, is forthcoming from Harper Wave. Follow her work at or on instagram at @theconnectionartist.

Oxygenation by Gabrielle Trúc Cohen


Strawberries nestled between lumps of brown sugar-coated oatmeal for breakfast. Juicy, grainy, sticky.

Birds sing between the branches of jacaranda trees to the tune of something that sounds like honey spread on leaves, butter on bread. Snippets of summer radio remind us to stay hydrated while the cars whistle by, slowly. There’s nowhere to go. August will come.

South Los Angeles is just thirty minutes from the ocean. But most days, the only body of water we touch comes from the one we create. Sweat and joy. Pain and sadness. Cool to the touch.

Our heads submerged, coming up for air only when it is time to shower.

After breakfast, there’s always a can of Altoids. Inside, flakes of brown and green leaves. I watch you roll and lick, then pass. No mint, just grass. An early flame. We sit on your porch in plastic green beach chairs and smoke for hours. Through the morning, through the afternoon heatwaves, and wonder.

* * * *

We didn’t have any money. We were always driving around in old cars. Cars that belonged to someone’s sister or roommate, cars that someone’s something or other said we could borrow while they did their backpacking trip through Europe, a graduation present to themselves. We celebrated your graduation with beers, upgrading from Keystone Light to Corona. As if that was a rite of passage. No lime, still cold.

I celebrated your graduation by graduating from my parents. Nineteen and just happy to be loved by you.

Who needs parents who don’t know how to parent themselves?

This is how I remember us that summer.

(Rich, Lush)

Dinner always begins with the crack-and-pop of Trader Joe’s two-buck-chuck wine bottles. Moist cork. Glass pressed to your nose. Blackberry and aged grape. And the most important flavor: oxygen. Breath of life. Just enough, not too much.

Kitchen knives placed perfectly, Netflix ready on your computer. One day, we’ll afford a television.

Boiling water for pasta and fresh-cut cilantro, the crunch of black pepper, rosemary-crusted lamb roast. Fingertips pressed on the oven. Electric heat burning my face.

There I am, nineteen and already looking like my mother. Her waiting and all.

“I want to go everywhere with you and I want to go nowhere without you,” I say drunkenly, pulling you on top of me, undressing you with my wine-stained lips. And nowhere we go. We lay and smoke and watch ourselves become black skies. The place where stickiness feels like vast seas.

We knock down glass after glass with exhilaration, a forgetting. Like to be drunk is a climax, like to no longer be sober is to remember. Inhaling enough of each other to be high, cutting ourselves off just before comatose.

Multiple universes exist, I know that and only that for sure. But I still want to ask: where do the stars go after they die, where do meteors crash on Earth, where do you and I fall when we finally decide to wake up?

This is how I remember staying.

* * * *

I often wonder. If I could go back, would I tell myself the truth? That most of the time, my eyes were closed, like I was just bracing myself, hoping that I could make it through all the horrible parts of my life and somehow still come out alive?

Will you save me?

I never asked directly.

(Intense, Full-bodied)

I remember my parents talking about one day. One day, you will meet someone who you will share your life with. One day, you will be loved.

One day, they said, as if they were ever happy.

You kill cockroaches and yell at landlords while I pop two pills of Effexor, watching from the window. Peering through the blinds, I can feel you sighing as soon as you reach your car, the parking ticket flying like a kite underneath the windshield wiper. The auto shop across the street would always win the street-parking-war. Right next to an auto shop, you said. The perfect apartment.

Always preparing for the worst, you and I. Ready for a break-down. You never did go to that auto shop.

Has the lamb finished cooking, baby?

It’s done.

* * * *

Do you remember wheeling our baskets to the laundromat around the corner, our entire evening blocked off just to separate colors? Do you remember the church chorus serenading us while we soaped clothes? Do you remember the smell of street-grilled carnitas and piping hot tortillas? How we always stopped at the taqueria on the way home, how I would ask for all three types of salsa. Drenching my tacos until they bled.

Too much detergent, baby.

I’m sorry. I’m always too much.

(Sharp, Spicy)

You can tell that wine has oxidized, if not by your nose, by your mouth. Tornado spinning on your lips, spiraling inward towards itself. Stringent enough to rub the insides of your cheeks dry. Wine goes down best when you close your eyes.

I could never handle my alcohol the way you could. Stinging. Sour. Full-bodied, all tannin. Jagged, dry burn in the throat like sandpaper rubbing the roof of your mouth. Nausea to make your head spin. Heartburn in the chest. Prepared to erupt.

A pause, then deep sigh, from the hollow part of your belly. The place where it hurts so bad that no one can ever visit, not even me, the supposed love of your life. I know this place because I have this place, too, and I promise: for all you think you have seen of me, you have never traveled here.

You, on one side of the bathroom door, and me on the other. Me on my knees.

What’s wrong what’s wrong what’s WRONG.

Is it your voice or mine? I cannot be sure.

When I finally unlock the door, you glance over at the unflushed toilet. You don’t know what to say after, and I can’t blame you.

We will always remain silent about these nights.

(Bitter finish)

Here’s a question I have been dying to ask you: when (if) you remember me,

Do you remember the summer, the girl on her knees, or both?

I tried to leave once before I really left.

Maybe, it was only in that space, the distance between us, and between that locked door, that we finally heard each other.

You remember, don’t you?

It was you who told me to go.

My bags packed. Suitcase at the door.

We never talk about that night. How you opened me up and left me exposed like the cork, the tree pulled from its roots.

I asked you to ask me to stay, and yes, I know I should have just said I’m sorry. But I was nineteen and still playing games. Pretending to be an adult when I was a child. Pretending to be your confidante when I still was a stranger to myself.

Our values are just different. Not just opposites-attract-different but irreconcilably different. Maybe it’s a good thing.

Your words melted like ice on my tongue, slid down my throat. I took the words with me when I left, when I found myself awake the next morning somewhere other than your bed. I told you I was a child.

But I came back, you remember that part, right? The knocking down of it all, the truth peering in like light through the window, the opportunity for us to set it straight. There was a chance for us to stop annihilating each other with our own demons.

When I returned, it was you on your knees this time. Please, never again. I love you. Whatever you need. The first and only time I have ever seen you cry.

You can give someone everything and it’s still not enough, baby. It’s never enough when they don’t love themselves.

This is how I broke.


I wonder what it would be like to work on a vineyard, to pull grapes and press them into something beautiful, to watch liquified fruit swim through machines and bottles, and eventually end up in the hands of two people, like you and me. To give someone something beautiful.

To give someone something that they want to remember.

* * * *

Why do people stay together when they are so different?

We learned to give each other space. So much air, we stopped breathing altogether. Squeezed every ounce of sweetness out, wringing the towel, licking the glass clean. Until there was nothing left but the pungent, sour, suffocating, sharp-like smell of acid.

Aeration is good for wine until it is not. Until it rots.

You never asked me, but I know it was always on the tip: Why are you like this?

I think you should have trusted yourself. But maybe that is why people stay together when they are different. Because of the things they refuse to admit, to each other, and to themselves. After all, here I am.

Years later, still letting the wine swirl, tasting you turn on my tongue.


Gabrielle Trúc Cohen (she/her) is moved by narratives that interrogate space. The spaces we take up, the spaces we leave behind, and the spaces where we live in-between. She has previously published an essay about this in diaCritics, a journal of Vietnamese and Southeast Asian diaspora arts and culture. This is her first published work of fiction. She is a multiracial, Vietnamese-American writer from California who currently lives in Saigon.

Hierarchy of Hunger by Anthony Aguero

My dad burned most of our memorabilia
From childhood — just like that, poof,

A snake crawls between my thighs

And excretes the poison, I mean love,
I mean Here are my images

Bathed in sunlight — gone.
A man sucks the vitamin E from my body

And massages the place a scar should be.
Here are my lips: red and aroused.

I try to remember a litany of hungers:

The first and last drug as actual serpent.
A series of fires on a cold, cold night.
How I bite into the neck of man’s body.

My spine always in search of memory.
The sound of my hunger breaking through.


Anthony Aguero is a queer writer in Los Angeles, CA. His work has appeared, or will appear, in the Bangalore Review, 2River View, The Acentos Review, The Temz Review, Rhino Poetry, Cathexis Northwest Press, 14 Poems, and others.