Little Offerings by Laurel Paige

Love happens             too easily, like my bones
came hollow. Anything
can fill them. Like my being grounded
relies on someone else             pressing

palms into my shoulders
relies on me pressing
back, thumb to hip
bone, thumb to thigh.

My nightmares used to be water-
logged. Crocodile teeth pulling
me under. Now

every night my own             teeth fall
out, little white offerings
my body makes,

so light
they’d be weightless in someone
else’s hand. And my bones beg
to be waterlogged

or stuffed with pearls, something
to make my body balanced or             brighter,
easier for someone to             love and to
weigh me down.

 

Laurel Paige is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Madison, WI where she works at a software company and gives readings at Meaderys. Her work has appeared in Firefly and is forthcoming in The Conglomerate and Semicolon Lit.

Chernobyl Fox by David Brennan

News crew. He struts up with a fearless limp, askew, his coat deranged in delicate splotches, an unfoxlike version of fox, this Emperor of Goof.

Why a limp? Let’s see a limp: a soaking rain of cesium-137. The mushrooms revel in the wet, distill the radiation in their caps. Voles, voracious mushroom consumers, make of their bodies vole-sized radiation pills the foxes love to pop. So His Majesty of Calamity recipes marrow-mush of his own bone.

The crew dispenses sandwich makings. A zone of exclusion invites concentration

Ham atop six fat white slices, gathered and fit along the long row of yellowing molars, no condiments but hey

The King of Leakage doesn’t chew nor wolf his food. He’s no longhair, no shaggy loper.

Camera zooms on his mouth: a loaf.

Horse and badger, ungulate and bird, beaver and moose, none have managed to procure such morsels

Dead power lines sag with vine, decorate. Monarch of Mutation

he turns and trots a return, sporting trophy for the reclamation of his realm.

 

David Brennan’s include If Beauty Has to Hide (Spuyten Duyvil), a collection of cross-genre work, and Murder Ballads: Exhuming the Body Buried Beneath Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (Punctum Books), a work of creative literary criticism. Poems and essays have appeared and are forthcoming in BOAAT, Timber, Always Crashing, Heavy Feather Review and elsewhere. He teaches at James Madison University in Virginia.

whole foods rotisserie chicken by Chelsea Balzer

in the car in the parking lot of the brighton whole foods I dig my unpurelled hands into the flesh of a roast chicken. the legs are tied together. I lift the thing to my face and press its burnt skin into my teeth. I am not starving. I ate four hours ago. people walk by and look away. they are nosy but not brave enough to say so. their faces do the denial dance. they are muffled under dusty shields. nothing wild can reach them and this makes them old.

I’m wearing a new watch. we say that this way we can keep time. years ago I was vegan. being loud is not always a sign of courage. I remember those friends and wonder if any have bled onto rocks since I left. I have. I don’t think it’s silly to choose that life. we are all responsible for taking stock of our harm. but what use is pacifism when loving someone well can wreak havoc on their whole life? how can we choose which things are good when showing someone their magic strips years of safety away? and isn’t this good?

we cannot not hurt. even the mercy of the world is a danger to someone. brutal is a framework. a moral made way by resistance. the worst wrong we enact is not really the pain or even the killing but the taunt that gets lodged in the body. the threat we don’t know we lived through. we lose track of the pain then the pleasure and at some point each other. if we still dance we need to know why. we hunt when we’re not even hungry. we start to believe we have time.

 

Chelsea Balzer is a writer, musician, and therapist. A current fellow with the American Psychological Association, she can be found offering therapy at YOGA NOW in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, performing as one-half of synthpop duo Vital Organs, and leading The Big Feels Lab: a series of workshops on mental health and liberation. Her debut chapbook Fruit Diaries is forthcoming.

Our love will stretch to cover this in time by Jeni De La O

There are
tests, after I
have gone. This morning it
was a last minute invite to
breakfast.

Dang. Her
pancakes are my
blueberry dreams. When I
bring in groceries I make just
one trip.

Twenty-
six bags and a
cantaloupe hang from my
forearm, digging a needless farm
of red

hot welts
I hide under
an old black cardigan.
There are essay questions on how
I can

reduce
the hard echo
built of my empty room.
I wish I could freeze us before
we strain

against
the framework of—
when I made pancakes I
always flipped the cake before time
and made

a mess;
and here I have,
again—something tender.
We ate them anyway, back then
pancakes

were still
butter-girlfriend
sweet; but now my hunger
is a sticky syrup on her
fingers.

 

Jeni De La O is an Afro-Cuban poet and storyteller living in Detroit. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Rigorous Magazine, Fifth Wednesday, Gigantic Sequins and others. Jeni founded Relato:Detroit, the nation’s first bilingual community storytelling event, which seeks to bridge linguistics divides through story. She is a Poetry Editor for Rockvale Review and organizes Poems in the Park, an acoustic reading series based in Detroit.

This is our dog by Emma Cairns Watson

This is our dog. We do not love him any more.
Not after all the things he has done.
I am sorry to have to relate that his ears are the color a brass doorbell turns
at the home of a family with many friends. Their texture
is reminiscent of the bristle-back stroke
of a Eurasian boar. This is not to mention his talent
for walking long distances saucer-eyed on his back legs,
which look like drumsticks of a kind you would not want
to find in your bag coming home from the store.
There is not much we can do about these because they are attached
to our dog, whose nose tapers to a fine matte point like
the very furriest and most hopeful of doorstops, and whom
because of persisting difficulties such as these, in addition
to the importunate amber of his eyes and the peculiar tufts of black whisker
that he has sent out mutinously from the underbelly of his very long chin
like tusks, and the snack-sweet scent of his white-tipped paws
on winter mornings when he otter-undulates his
hairy and cunning way into our bed, we do not love any more.

 

Emma Cairns Watson coordinates university conferences on Egyptology and Armenian art by day and inhales other people’s poetry by night. Her work has appeared in Barrelhouse Online and Menacing Hedge and is forthcoming in RHINO, Half Mystic, and Ninth Letter. You can find her on twitter @EmmaValjean and (more importantly) her dog on instagram @the_durg.

The Pseudomorph by Amy Alexander

What is this me you see
in the waves,
from ink so deep?

Swimmers with spears
or driving rain
bring her on.

She seeps from my center,
blossom minded,
mottled,
lacks maps
and swallows night shrieks.

She slips in, nutrient-dense, saying:

You are not what
you say you are.
You made a mess.
You should eat garbage,
you cheap
rubber
thing.

 

Amy Alexander is a poet, visual artist, and homeschooling mother living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, not far from the Mississippi River, which is very far from her hometown on the Colorado River, but still familiar, because of moving water. Her work has appeared most recently in The Coil, Cease, Cows, Anti-Heroin Chic, the Mojave Heart Review, Mooky Chick, The Remembered Arts, and RKVRY. Follow her on Twitter @iriemom.

 

 

Tennessee Warbler by Emily Banks

The bird is brave to stop
in Atlanta. Her name is Tennessee.

She only wants to taste the big city.
From my balcony, she tries to see

the skyline through the trees,
but it’s so hard to hold her eyes open.

I think she’s dying.
I don’t know whether to give her water

or poke her with a stick.
Sometimes a girl just needs a little rest,

I tell myself. Too pretty—
how her yellow feathers accent neutral tones.

I worry that she ate a poisoned wasp.
If she dies here, it must mean

the worst for me. At a highway rest stop once,
I used a bathroom with the sign “omen.”

I was migrating too. I offer water
in a bottle cap. I tell her she has to fly away,

that if you stay in one place too long
you’ll be taken for dead.

 

Emily Banks lives in Atlanta, where she is a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University. She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland and a B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including storySouth, Cimarron Review, Free State Review, Muse/A Journal, and Yemassee.

Dead Bird by Todd Dillard

You swung the chainsaw through the rosebush,
lopped off its top, and found,
tucked in fang and bramble,
a nest of juniper twigs. Inside it,
I waited, dead since last season,
curled like a dropped dishcloth.

You worried you were a terrible father.
You worried your sunblock-slathered daughter,
splashing at the water table across the yard,
would totter over and thump you
with a question shaped like me.

You worried too, briefly,
if I was a blunt omen
when you didn’t believe in omens.

You placed my nest and I in a grocery bag
as if you’d just come back from the store,
a quick errand to pick up a little death
because you’d run out
and who knows when you’ll need some more
to sprinkle on your pillow or morning cereal?

You knotted the bag,
and gentle as laying a babe in her crib
you placed it in the garbage,
unhitched another worry from your throat.

In the dark I listened to the chainsaw growl.
I imagined you holding it over your head.
I imagined you thinking: I am trying to be a good father,
bringing the chainsaw down.

 

Todd Dillard’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous publications, including Crab Creek Review, Longleaf Review, Nimrod, Superstition Review, and The Boiler Journal. He was a finalist for the 2018 Best Small Fictions anthology, and has been nominated for Best of the Net 2018. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and daughter, and can be found on Twitter via @toddedillard.

Prey by Christine Taylor

He bounds down the back steps:
my dog has caught
the scent of prey.
From under a lawn chair,
a bunny sprints
for her life,
dashes in sharp S-turns to thwart
the husky on her trail.
She reaches the fence
unforgivably low,
and when she can’t slip underneath,
she leaps into the air–
a valiant attempt
to escape
into the rest of her years.

The dog leaps too
catches her struggling body
just as it falls from the apex
of her last grasp at life.
Her bones crunch
between the strength of his jaws,
and he savors every bit of her–
head, belly, limbs.
The ravenous moment passed,
he lies down in the grass
satiated
panting
his head raised to bask in the sun.

I want to say I’m horrified, but
I have, after all, witnessed
the event as a bystander
who hasn’t moved
from her spot
on these steps
who hasn’t rushed to wrest
the dog away
to save
hasn’t at least called out Stop!

I stumble down the steps
fall into one of the Adirondack chairs
watch finches escape the feeder.
Thunder comes to sit
at my feet
a drop of saliva
lands on my shoe,
and I can’t help but pet him
bury my fingers
in that downy sable fur.

 

Christine Taylor, a multiracial English teacher and librarian, resides in her hometown Plainfield, New Jersey. She serves as a reader and contributing editor at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. Her work appears in Modern Haiku, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, The Rumpus, wildness, and The Paterson Literary Review among others. She can be found at christinetayloronline.com.