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.

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

Date Night by Holly Salvatore

My marrow bones roast at 425 degrees for 18 minutes, glistening fatty in the forced oven light. Which ones are the marrow bones, you ask?
Femurs are your best bet. Scraped out with a long, thin spoon like a speculum. Extracting the marrow — invasive intimacy —
performed in an echoing home.
You serve me on a handmade cutting board with lemon wedges and nasturtium petals. You eat me on toast points, letting me drip down your chin.

I am a:
❏ Man
❏ Woman
❏ ?

Seeking a:
❏ Man
❏ Woman
❏ Pack of wolves

to hunt me down and preheat the oven

 

Holly Salvatore is a farmer in CO. Their work has appeared in Honey & Lime, Kissing Dynamite, Barren, Wellington Street Review, and others. They tweet @Queen_Compost and can usually be found outside.

Lycopene in Scale by Matthew DeMarco

The ear grows enormous,
one of its rings the size of a hoop
that tigers jump through.
Its wax is mined out biweekly
in a train of seven coal carts.
What is odd is that earwigs
do not grow proportional to the size
of the gigantic ear. They become
a trifle to the god-ear.
Yes, the big ear is a god.
Its hollow holds trumpets,
but also bazookas are in there,
and a vegetable patch.
The vegetable patch grows cherry tomatoes
that are the actual size of cherry tomatoes.
One day I strolled through the slippery cave
of the god-ear, and I stained the cuffs
of my pants with wax. It was at the apex
of the interval between mining times.
I plucked one cherry tomato for you.
It was the right size, love, to be eaten.
Why did you crush it with your fist?

 

Matthew DeMarco lives in Chicago. His work has appeared on Poets.org and in Ghost City Review, Landfill, Sporklet, Glass, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming from Infinite Rust, The Swamp, and DUM DUM Zine. Poems that he wrote with Faizan Syed have appeared in Jet Fuel Review, Dogbird and They Said, an anthology of collaborative writing from Black Lawrence Press. He tweets sporadically from @M_DeMarco_Words.

The Poem Where Dr. Phil Rides to the Back Doctor with Me by Katie Darby Mullins

Sometimes I imagine my vertebrae like explosions,
Each piece a tiny mushroom cloud lit up
In gray and blue and maybe even purple—
Loud colors and pain streaking, catching fire.

Today my shoulder is erosion: a shelf worn
Down from over use. Something’s
Wrong, but I’m supposed to pretend I don’t
Notice. Power of positive thinking. Doctors
Have told me since I was ten that I didn’t hurt

“And thank God all this pain doesn’t hurt,”
I say out loud. Dr. Phil is in the passenger seat,
Trying to keep his expensive shoes off the papers
On the floorboard. He’s come to accept

The mess. Some matchbox twenty song is on the radio,
And I can tell he’s torn between fidgeting
With the dial (– and me shutting him down) and singing.
“I see your pain. And I can’t begin to understand

How you feel,” he says. It’s a canned answer,
But a good one: sometimes I wonder if the swelling
Goes down a little every time someone
Believes me. I’ve seen him say this to widows,
People who’ve lost parents. And in the scheme

Of things, I know this isn’t so bad: but sometimes
All that knowledge courses through my muscles
And they tense up harder, and soon, my body
Is knotted with pieces of me I can’t even name.
Sometimes I’m carrying the pain of the whole
World in the worn-out spaces between bones.

 

Katie Darby Mullins teaches creative writing at the University of Evansville. In addition to being nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net twice, and being the associate editor of metrical poetry journal Measure, she’s been published or has work forthcoming in journals like The Rumpus, Iron Horse, Hawaii Pacific Review, BOAAT Press, Harpur Palate, Prime Number, Big Lucks, Pithead Chapel, and she was a semi-finalist in the Ropewalk Press Fiction Chapbook competition and in the Casey Shay Press poetry chapbook competition.

Underwater by Bojana Stojcic

When did I last eat? I know I masturbated. I don’t recall eating, though. I threw up. I remember that. But I didn’t eat. No, no, I didn’t eat. I think I went to bed yesterday morning. It’s getting dark. I got up once to pee. Then I felt sick. The winter sky swallows the colors of the visible spectrum fast, and reflects none to my itchy eyes. I don’t need the light to see. I refuse to accept black is not a color.

I used to think of myself as a black-maned horse running wild or a rabbit with large hind legs running away. They can survive on land. I am a whale, raising her young, living and dying at sea.

I force myself to open my eyelids heavy with day and night dreaming of the oceans in his eyes (how deep is their deepest part, I wonder) and his strong back against the levee before it breaks, leaving a big opening for my salty waters to flood his badly protected shore. We take turns opening and closing our mouths until pregnant colorlessness passes us down its throat and we start breathing air through a hole at the top of our heads.

 

Bojana Stojcic writes and bites, like a lot, so try not to piss her off. Her poems and flash pieces are published or forthcoming in Rust + Moth, Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, The Opiate, Burning House Press, Down in the Dirt, Mojave Heart Review, Dodging the Rain, The Blue Nib, Foxglove Journal, Spillwords, The Stray Branch, Tuck magazine, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow and Visual Verse. She blogs at Coffee and Confessions to go.

Things People Have Written in Letters to Ghosts by Chloe N. Clark

Remember the time we woke up too late to watch the sun rise and the sky was already bright [space/page changes/something is not connected] and you said you thought you saw the color drain from your eyes when you looked in that mirror [space] once I meant to tell you that the windows were beginning to crack [page changes] under the weight of the water, that’s a phrase you used to describe how stones must feel after they stop skipping, why would [something is not connected] you say something like that? [space] The doctor told me to hold my breath when I felt the first twinge of pain and if it lasted longer than I could keep the breath in than I should get help. What kind of [page changes] dreams do you have at night? Or is there just an emptying out? Like when you sleep after a fever has broken and in the morning you can’t remember anything except that you feel new? [something is not connected] I kept all of the pebbles you collected and I spread them over the bottom of the bathtub and filled it with ice water and when I climbed in it felt like I was in a lake and I thought that I could hear the wind through trees but it was only the house settling down with no one moving about and [space] often I imagine that you are still here only you no longer live in this city and you no longer have the same phone number and maybe your name has changed and that is why I never hear from you anymore. Does that seem [page changes] like something I should have told you sooner? I meant to, you know. But I thought you knew. I just [something is not connected] keep thinking about how we ran outside anyway and kept going until we reached the top of the hill and you said that if we just ran fast enough than the sun would rise again.

 

Chloe N. Clark is the author of The Science of Unvanishing Objects and Your Strange Fortune. Her poetry and fiction appears in Booth, Little Fiction, Pithead Chapel, Uncanny, and more. She is co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph, writes for Nerds of a Feather, and can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes.

While Walking in Forest Park by Georgia Bellas

The deer crashes through the trees toward the paved road. Toward me. Wildly beautiful, thunderous, scared. Galloping legs, one wounded. A flame of white for its tail, like clouds, like static electricity, like cotton balls pasted on a construction paper bunny. It crosses the road. It climbs. With difficulty, with bewilderment, but it climbs. Almost to the top of the hill it looks back. I keep my eyes binoculared on it, wondering if it knows that up there is only a mausoleum, a view, a bench, the highway down below.

 

Georgia Bellas is a writer, artist, and filmmaker whose current obsession is reading plant monographs. She and Dan Nielsen are the Wisconsin-based duo Sugar Whiskey (www.sugarwhiskey.com), an electronica art band. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the award-winning weekly Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy.

Dialectical Argument with Boyfriend and Bird Killer by Jennifer Metsker

See the braided bowl of bird intestines
on the bed pillow and the twig of leg on the stairwell?
Let’s talk about my death as a pardonable offense.
Do you really wish you didn’t have a head?             If       then
the cat won’t go outside       bird murder
haunts his haunches.
I pretend to have a hurt wing as I’m channel surfing.
Oh, you’re watching too much Animal Planet.             But
the hatchet in the trunk,       there’s nothing worse
than a chopped up version of yourself.             What if I
plummet?       What if I       in the wide-eyed chasm
party without panties on             or worse?
Every day,       you say,       every day I recommend,
try a little of this blue hair.       We can grow old.
We can drive the car to Walmart.       Even parking lots
are somewhere.       But
sometimes I can’t follow what’s happening on Friends.
I worry too much about their rents increasing.
Do they die in the end?       No spoilers!

 

Jennifer Metsker teaches at the Stamps School of Art and Design in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poetry has appeared in Beloit, Rhino, Birdfeast, Gulf Coast, The Seattle Review, and other journals. Her audio poetry using found forms won The Third Coast Short Docs Audio Prize and has been featured on the BBC Radio’s Short Cuts.

Awake by Daniyel Wiggins

My hairs are the cobwebs of sleep –
I find so many strands on my pillow in the morning.
I get up to make some tea, and after letting it steep
I look down and see eyelashes floating
Like cattails on the surface of a pond.
My head is Autumn shedding so many leaves,
Dropping shadows on my paper flaky skin,
Leaving breadcrumbs so you can tell where I’ve been.
These fingers rake my scalp and make neat, fluffy piles
Ready to be jumped in.
I pull it out in balls,
Like the dust clumps you scrape out from under the
refrigerator.
I’ve started a collection unintentionally, all the piles
lined up on my desk, one for every day until Winter
when every leaf has been pinched from its branch
and all the trees are left naked, bald
When they are left barren and cold.

 

Daniyel Wiggins is a Native American writer currently living in central California. While his focus has been on poetry, he explores many genres including novels and non-fiction. He is currently studying English Literature and Photography with the dream of spending a lifetime immersed in the arts.