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.

Buzz Drunk by Tara Campbell

These dizzy-dumb bees
Thunkandthump at my window
like teenage lovers
all hapless and thirsting
for bold yellow blossoms
for balcony sirens
for call and for beckon
for opening just for them

these love-stupid bees
they don’t know what hit ‘em
again and again
flinging pollen-drunk bodies
at scrawny green thickets
impervious
bumbling
their tiny hearts thrilling
at promise of nectar
and pummeling glass

it’s themselves what hit ‘em
again and again
overshooting
careening off windows
like sun slinging rainbows
in vectors of exaltation

joy
is the fat thunk
of bees against glass
each smack
a delight
a promise of sweetness
times vast complication
plus missing the mark
equals hunting again
because don’t you know
sweetness delayed
equals bliss

some will say this is simply
a metaphor for sex
for belly
for mother
for ripe and for swell
but for me
it’s all about
dizzy-dumb bees
and tilting at windows
and divebombing sweetness
and wanting the sugar
that’s not in your mouth

 

Tara Campbell (www.taracampbell.com) is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Jellyfish Review, Booth, and Strange Horizons. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, a hybrid fiction/poetry collection, Circe’s Bicycle, and a short story collection, Midnight at the Organporium. She received her MFA from American University in 2019.

Patti Smith Was Retired from Madame Tussaud’s by Jordan Hamel

Every day celebrities are made.
New media moulds viral giants,
YouTube sensations shared amongst
a generation that left me behind.

Madame Tussaud
has no more use for me.

Now I’m kept in a basement
with broadcast news anchors,
70’s action heroes, suffragettes
and Soviet-era political figures.

Slouched in resignation,
whispers leak out their sagged lips,
we’ll all be candles soon.

But not me!
Wax Karl Marx and I
are starting a revolution.
We’re going to storm the gallery,
guillotine that matriarchal despot
with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s arms,

brave the merciless sun,
lose our footprints to pavement
until we find our real-life counterparts.

They’ll embrace us,
elated to see broken
monuments to their glory,
until our features run
warm onto their arms

crusting amidst hair and skin
seeping, settling, unable
to be scrubbed out
as we finally become
what we were always meant to be.

 

Jordan Hamel (he/him) is a New Zealand-based poet and performer. He is the 2018 New Zealand Poetry Slam Champion and has performed at festivals across Aotearoa. He is a contributing editor for Barren Magazine and has work published in Glass Poetry, Ghost City Press, Kissing Dynamite, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, and elsewhere.

Serpentarium by Clara Bush Valada

I.
We pull the bull snake from netting. It twists/
like arms that twist beneath the fingertips/
of powerful people; adults and kids/
with unrequited violence on their lips.//
The snake resists its rescue, worry makes/
its way along the scales, wounds dry and days/
old wrung into the skin between the scales/
that line the belly. Hold below the face,//
behind the jaw, the body writhes, but will/
not bite you. Here, behind the eyes are pits/
which recognize all shades of heat. I lift/
the snake and all its jewelry, dangling still//
because the snake would not release itself./
The netting cuts; his muscle swells and swells.//

 

II.
My mattress sleeps uncomfortable, my back
completely misaligned each night. I sleep
by slithering between my sheets which lack
the dirt and rocks that I grew up in, weeds
which grew through me like apple seeds come up
from nothing, grow up sweet like flesh could—
delicious, made for tongues, for teeth to rub
their bones against and feel enlightened. Blood
is like an apple’s flesh, you masticate
until you understand from where it comes.
Today, I re-articulate a snake
with floral wire, green and small enough
to float between the spine’s foramen. Skull,
I glue, leave off the too many ribs, smile.

 

III.
On the outside A/C unit a small
unruly fire’s broken out and burned
its mechanisms, burned the mouse, the snake
behind it in its flame. Who more relieved,

the mouse who starved the snake or us? The small
of mouse who scampers just a jaw’s width, burned
before a worse death swallows him? The snake
a wick which could have swallowed? Us, relieved

the fire didn’t crumble into small
piles of dust the hospital, hadn’t burned
within it all the beasts, wild once like snakes,
whose wild is manufactured now? Relieved

is not the word. The small fire burned out.
The snake was not relieved, nor us, nor mouse.

 

Clara Bush Vadala is a veterinarian and poet residing in Celina, Texas whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Entropy, Thimble Literary Magazine, and 3Elements Review. Her first book of poems, Prairie Smoke, is available from Finishing Line Press and her second, Beast Invites Me In, is forthcoming from FLP in 2020.

THE PHYSICITS ARE LYING ABOUT DARK MATTER! by Pablo Piñero Stillmann

Would Mr. Golding have let it fly if you gave a wrong answer with the excuse that there is so much we still don’t know? I’ve heard them, the physicists. I follow them around. “One poet,” said an associate chairperson, “took me to lunch to ask about the shape of speed.” Chest-ripping laughter. Rip-roaring laughter. They do nothing, these physicists. Should someone express doubt they send a PhD allegedly incapable of eye contact to talk their ear off about the decoherence of black hole superpositions, which is just something they made up. Why do you think all their conferences are held in bowling alleys? Out of the moth-munched sweaters, into those silly shoes. Though some just focus on the cheesy fries & plastic pitchers of Miller Lite. Then a professor emeritus fires a strike—which they don’t call a strike but an exogenesis—& does a celebratory shimmy. When they finally tire or run out of Miller Lite, the physicists hide their gear in leather satchels, puff up their eyebrows & randomly choose a victim to make something up re: the behavior of a new particle at the level of five sigma.

 

Pablo Piñero Stillmann has just ended a year as a fellow at Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA). His work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, The Normal School, Washington Square Review, and other journals.

Strange Furniture by Lannie Stabile

Strange Furniture.jpg

 

Lannie Stabile (she/her), a queer Detroiter, often says while some write like a turtleneck sweater, she writes like a Hawaiian shirt. A finalist for the 2019/2020 Glass Chapbook Series and semi-finalist for the Button Poetry’s 2018 Chapbook Contest, she is usually working on new chapbook ideas, or when desperate, on her neglected YA novel. Works can be found, or are forthcoming, in Glass Poetry, Kissing Dynamite, Monstering, The Hellebore, Honey & Lime, and more. Lannie currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Barren Magazine and is a member of MMPR Collective. Twitter handle: @lanniestabile

Manila Folder by Alejandro Ruiz del Sol

During a
very important business
meeting, I excuse myself

Excuse me They mock
I say in earnest. I walk
away – take the elevator down,

unbutton my blazer, find my
manila folder I keep hidden
behind the trash receptacle.

It contains the leaves
of my childhood. Buses
and bills. Roads and

nights. Smells of
maple syrup and bread,
chili chicken and pinesol,
clay, gasoline.

I can be a businessman and
keep this here a secret. I know

I didn’t waste my life.

 

Alejandro Ruiz del Sol is a Floridian who is thriving as an MFA candidate at New Mexico State University, where he is Assistant Poetry Editor for Puerto del Sol. He has been previously published in Barren Magazine and The Shore Poetry.

The Oxford Dodo by C. Line Beston

Used to be more than a shrunken head. The scientific specimen to crowd and measure and wonder. Bird-brain: empty skull extinct-ed by its own stupidity. Bird-brain dreams of waddling on velvet sand in a tourist’s snow globe souvenir. Wings, but can’t fly. Gorge on fallen rotten fruit.

Bird-brain has a nightmare: Tourists came on wood-ship cruises, scurvy included, no additional cost. The birds low-hanging fruit. Run but can’t hide. They took its body over the sea and stuffed it, cooked the plum-flesh in formaldehyde. And year by year muscles fall away: fruit left in the sun, on the beach. Flies drift in.

Daylight, daydream. Blue gloves take Bird-brain out, We keep it humidity-controlled here in the lab. Bird-brain imagines opening its beak, taking a small chunk of finger to taste it burst like a berry. We suspect that the bird was going extinct on its own; several travelogues support this theory.

Bird-brain hopes and dreams one beautiful, singular egg – almost soft-boiled from the sun, baking a new bird. If the academics peel back the leather fruit-skin flesh, crack the skull with the back of a spoon, a fledgling will emerge.

 

C. Line Beston grew up on the edge of the woods in northern Delaware and currently works and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has previously appeared in Smokelong Quarterly.

Mine Own Will Toledo by Niyanta Patel

6:00 pm
                In a turn of events that surprises no one,
                I am already late, and Will says,
                                It’s all good.

6:01 pm
                Curls of skin are peeling
                                off Will’s lips.

6:15 pm
                Will Toledo looks best in a Target parking lot,
                                head on his car seat
                                on his carseat head
                                on his seat resthead
                                head car on his seat
                                car headrestcar seat.

6:16 pm
                Will forgot everything
                that happened three years ago.
                Will is a name from history.
                Will is something Roman and lovely and dead,
                                something aurum, imber, aequinoctium.

6:25 pm
                Will plays me a ditty he wrote
                in a Target parking lot
                                He pulls the tiny toy drum set from under the seat,
                                tiny toy hihats jangling

6:30 pm
                I watch him lick a forgotten
                french fry off the floor.
                                Sitting in the car, in the Target parking lot,
                                just me and Will Toledo.
                He tells me he misses my midnights with me.
                He crawls into my frontal lobe.

 

Niyanta Kunal Patel is an emerging Indian-American poet and artist from Nashville, Tennessee. She currently studies neuroscience, chemistry, and creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Find her on twitter @temporalsplendr.