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.

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.