To the Western Fox Snake I Watched Unhinge Its Jaw and Swallow a Mouse Whole by Kate Wright

I’m sorry I watched—jaws spread, gentle
pink interior visible, contrasted against black
rodent fur—stared as you walked your lower jaw
closer to tail, curved teeth gripping, pulling
body back. I couldn’t help it, wondered how
it feels to unhinge, swallow something
so large, the strain and squeeze of muscle
visible beneath gold and brown scale
spotted exterior. I know you’re nervous,
in a vulnerable state—hidden behind paper
half-curtain taped to glass tank for privacy,
the illusion of safety. So, I avoided eye contact
until just the tail hung from your mouth—slurped
down throat, the lump muscled, squashed,
and moving through the body.

 

Kate Wright received her BA and MA in English from Penn State and her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. This poem was inspired by her time volunteering at the Iowa Wildlife Center, where she particularly enjoyed working with the reptiles. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from in Digging Through the Fat, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rogue Agent, Ghost City Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @KateWrightPoet.

Goat of My Heart by Courtney LeBlanc

Goats will eat anything, their teeth and stomachs able
to chew through whatever they consume. In DC, the city
employs goats to eat through the wild poison ivy that grows
uncontrolled in Congressional Cemetery, the goats wandering
among the headstones, caring for them in an efficient way
that must be some sort of love. My heart is a goat, gnawing
through everything – him: a tin can that cuts my mouth
and throat as I swallow, the sharp taste of blood filling
my mouth, my belly full but with nothing to nourish me.
And then the other him: the dew-licked grass, tender and filling.
My heart always eats this last, unable to understand
the one who is good for me.

 

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), and the chapbooks All in the Family (Bottlecap Press) and The Violence Within (Flutter Press). She has her MBA from University of Baltimore and her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and her dog. Read her publications on her blog: www.wordperv.com. Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.

Anubis 1 by James Vu

I set myself a bath.

Yes, men sometimes bathe.

When I light my cigarette, Anubis appears on the toilet seat. The light in the room changes—my eyes water in insect mosaics as pitch-black paint whisks along the cracking walls.

The water jigsaw puddles in blue and white, like glass over a cotton candy sky.

Put your face under, he says.

If it was the sea, then we’ve lost so much time and have seen so little.

His laugh isn’t exactly pleasant (it somehow darkens the room and makes my blood warm), but he tells me his favorite jokes, and shows me his collection of favorite ancient and post-industrial weapons.

The best ones are the guns we’ll never get to use. Just some prototypes, he says.

Then, all the pictures of his favorite demonic women, modest and nude. Mostly platonic, he says.

Those are the women we want most.

He smiles coyly, his teeth sharper and whiter than anything you’ve ever seen.

Anubis loves cigarettes, but he only smokes with me because he’s trying to quit. He has a confession:

“I’ve built every single crypt, blinding my vision of every face. It was my end of the bargain. I just want letters from the people I have known:

What the weather is like, how quiet the whispers are when they lay in the grass, or how the wind treats their faces when they’re up in the mountains…

the smell of smoked meat in the summer, and how the sun looks and feels day-to-day. I never got a letter, but I think it’s because they don’t know what to write.

It doesn’t have to be a tome or a tomb.”

In this sea of blue and white bath water, Anubis washes away in the still-dark, a Nile of every star surrounding the scarred, sacred moon.

The moon before all the buildings, streetlights and people. The one that cared for the animals.

With my shadow further from me than before

I rinse off,  I’ll only feel clean momentarily.

 

James Vu is a languid Californian keeping Portland weird. He is a comic book author and (currently not) paying the bills with a McJob. James Vu loves you and the Lakers. He used to love opiates. James Vu is taller than you and can cook. He just had a poem published in The Pointed Circle and will have a poem published in The Bookends Review in October.

First Day of Spring by Jeanna Paden

Tennessee rains sunbeams for the first time all year
a worm crawls under my skin
inching along, stretching
beside me a level
I use to keep my head on straight
even when the sun is out
my body makes clouds
sewage is gurgling up in the backyard
we pretend we don’t smell it because the money isn’t
there
I am a playground for worms, wonder too much about death
wonder about every person I know who was always bound to die
I spoil everything, never thought I’d live
through the midnights of February
but today, Tennessee is lighting up
green and yellow, wind in the treetops
worms working the dead earth

 

Jeanna Paden (she/her) is a freelance health and wellness writer and poet. Her poetry has been published by Foothill: A Journal of Poetry, Pulp Poets Press, and The Bookends Review. Her creative work has received nominations for The Pushcart Prize and Best New Poets anthologies. Connect with her on Twitter at @halfwaytoitblog.

morning ritual by KJ Shepherd

we lay in bed, shirts and briefs and bare feet,
punch drunk on antihistamines and no sleep,
riffing for hours:

on your dream and whether it’s about your
mother (yes); how transparent a ghost must
be (very); whether i ever went to a private
school (never); about my alter ego’s kinks
(spit); my fur (nice); your fur (incredible);
my eye crust and your snoring (oh well);

we fall into a celebrity incantation:

ruby dee, didi conn, rae dawn chong
kiki dee, deedee king, bb king, chaka khan,
connie chung ruby dee kikideedidiconn
raedawnchongchakakhandeedeeking c c h
pounder

hello i’m shelley duvall
(i kiss you and you kiss me back)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(we sing tom’s diner at each other)
hello i’m shelley duvall
(i plant my nose under your arms)
hello i’m shelley duvall
(my cat is confused by all this)

in the shower, I list all the ways
i will mess this all up:

if I leave town too much, or not enough;
if I fuck too many other guys, or not
enough; if I began to hate my cat for
liking you more than me; if you see me
when I yell in traffic; if I say I love you
loud enough for you to hear it; if you
say tina chow stacy keech robin leach and
I have nothing to give but my eye crust

hello I’m shelley duvall
(i make you breakfast with my last eggs)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(I’ve read about dual star systems)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(you lick my nose and I lick yours back)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(we laugh under the weight of all this)

 

KJ Shepherd was a historian who became something else. They run the zine you know, i don’t know, and you can also find their poetry and other writing at Contingent, Lady Science, and Tropics of Meta. KJ lives in Austin, Texas.

Lately by Emry Trantham

I have wanted to destroy things.
Throw eggs, one by one, into a broad tree

even I won’t miss. I want to hear the shell
burst, see the broken yolk drip-shine against bark.

In fantasies I buy every plate in Goodwill
and bring them home to smash

against my stained concrete driveway.
Hurl arch shatter, every plate I found

in Goodwill, every plate I placed in my cart
and hauled to my trunk. I want to shoot

things. Pumpkins, maybe. Finger to trigger
to a gaping exit wound, sticky pulp

and seeds blasted out over my front porch.
I have no gun. I have no pumpkin.

What I have is this apple, glowing red
and round in the palm of my hand.

What I have is this knife, sharp enough
to slice the thin dusky skin of the fruit,

sharp enough to carve its white flesh.
What I have is precision, what I have

is a plate full of apple slices
to take outside to my children.

 

Emry Trantham is an English teacher in Western North Carolina, where she is raising three daughters and writing poems. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Booth, Tar River Poetry, Carolina Quarterly, Noble Gas Qtrly, Cider Press Review, Cold Mountain Review, and others. She was also a 2019 Gilbert-Chappell Emerging Poet.

The Recluse by Jose Hernandez Diaz

A writing residency, at my kitchen table, where I wake up at 4 a.m. because of insomnia from meds, and write a poem about a skeleton in a maze, and no one is around to say it’s cliché, so I publish it in a book called: One Hundred Days of a Recluse.

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is from Southern California. His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Georgia Review, Huizache, Iowa Review, The Nation, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Southeast Review, and elsewhere. He is the author of a collection of prose poems: The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020).

Call Me When You Need Me by Marisa Crane

will you brush my teeth for me? is the question tossed about this house at night
while bats flap their wings outside, not knowing the myths they carry
it’s healthy to learn to trust people
that’s what all the therapists & self-help books say
I know a thing or two about the teeth in my jaw
attachment theory says we need consistent love from our caregivers
for the inconsistent times, we have stuffed animals & blankies
we have our wings to wrap around our cold quivering bodies
it’s the moments like small gods stacked on top of each other in a trench coat
it’s you smiling through a foamy mouth while I decide what to read in bed
we go looking for molars with just the right crunch
the right break-you-open-&-see-what’s-inside
but we never look in the most obvious of places
(the loneliness of an underwear drawer off its track)
earlier there were the too-full grocery bags, the list, the spilt blueberries,
the you watching me watching you eat a meal I made
the dog follows us into the bedroom
he tells stories with his eyelashes, their snowflake linger
I should be listening but I can’t stop thinking about a baby bat
hanging upside down hugging a teddy bear

 

Marisa Crane is a lesbian writer and editor. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pigeon Pages, Pidgeonholes, Drunk Monkeys, among others. She currently lives in San Diego with her wife. You can read more of her work at www.marisacrane.org. Her Twitter handle is @marisabcrane.

The Witch of Maurepas Calls the Swamp to Hand by Jack B. Bedell

Slow, whole notes draw the swamp’s pulse
right up to her lap. Skinks and grasshoppers
crawl across the grass, baby squirrels

and rabbits come out from the woods,
and mosquito hawks float in the air
around her shoulders. Even eagles

dive out of the sky to be near her song.
She sings as if her pitch could
feed the whole swamp, as if

the breadcrumbs she offers, could
heal all need. Her melodies stoke
the breeze and pull the tides

toward her heart, and all the eyes around
blink in rhythm with her blood.

 

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Shore, Pidgeonholes, Cotton Xenomorph, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain, saltfront, and other journals. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, 2018). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

When His Surgeon Called and Asked If I Had Questions by Jacqueline Hughes Simon

I had no questions
After three days all I knew

was how beautifully thin
I was My pants slunk

from my hips which
jutted out like wings

My ribs were sharp
and caught on corners

My torso long and ropy
with no respect for my neck

It rained I wore boots
and had thigh gap

In the cafeteria
my pretty nails

brittled onto the tray
Talking with doctors

my teeth loosened
My elegant cheek-

bones split my skin
My golden hair fell

out and I knit it into socks
I couldn’t shit or

remember who I hated
I was magnificent

 

Jacqueline Hughes Simon is a writer living in Berkeley, CA. Her work has appeared in Written Here – The Community of Writers Poetry Review, Poecology, The Cortland Review , and others. She is currently an MFA candidate at St. Mary’s College, California.