At night I imagine the coyotes by Gion Davis

Laughing together
On the swing sets
At the empty school up the road
The city is finally theirs
I’d laugh too if it was me
Who was I?
My star chart says I was born
To be an employee
When I always felt I should be
A planet myself
Trudging through the universe
As a gigantic lonely eyeball
Leave it to heaven
To tell me how I should
Exist on the ladder
As though it wouldn’t be more
Cost effective for me to drop dead
Abandoning the pizzas I’d pick up
With all the boyfriends I’d have
The tattoos and birthdays
And paying for water
What is it like
To be an unstructured animal
As innocent as Jupiter
And twice as beautiful

 

Gion Davis is a queer poet from Española, New Mexico where they grew up on a sheep ranch. Their poetry has been featured in Wax Nine Journal, SELFFUCK, Tilted House, and others. They have received the Best New Poets of 2018 Prize selected by Ocean Vuong. They are the editor of Rhinestone Magazine and their chapbook Love & Fear & Glamour was published in 2019. They graduated with their MFA in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2019 and currently live in Denver, Colorado. Gion can be found on Twitter @gheeontoast and on Instagram @starkstateofmind.

Shadows by Ruth Lehrer

It’s a good thing to know who your enemies are
That’s what they say when they start worming
into all the holes of your life
tracking your diet your loves your mindset
analyzing meaning in your patterns of poop
what the wrong type of tea can do to your tooth enamel
scribing all your failures
in a chart on a spreadsheet in an app
dictating a memo to all your exes and past librarians
checking all the books you have left on your shelf
for more than six months without cracking
and taking away a donut and six Oreos
for each rhyme you left unfinished

You try to keep your nail biting a secret
but it’s typed in Helvetica on the bathroom wall
in red paint against the tiles blue.

 

Ruth Lehrer is a writer and sign language interpreter living in western Massachusetts. She is the author of the novel Being Fishkill, the poetry chapbook Tiger Laughs When You Push, and many other poems. You can find her website at ruthlehrer.com.

Last Seen Leaving by Laura Ring

Stay off the back roads, Beynon says.
We do not listen. We eat the roads
and the roads eat us – swallow us
like a gullet so we forget.

We want to ride the velvet maw forever –
brushed by bronchioles of northern pine,
the muscled tongue of riverbeds. We are blind
to landmarks: Molly Supple Hill, Bear Swamp

ghosted, empty of reference. We press
our cheeks against granite molars, cool,
carved out of mountains. Lick the water
that falls like tears off lichen-patched rock.

The Folk will try to trick you, he says.
With fruit trees, or a bird with a broken wing
and you’ll be lost.
The road is a marrow bone.
We suck in mile after reticular mile.

Stripped of street signs and last names,
we are innocent of home. The road swirls us
under its nose. How gladly we dance,
like wine legs on the curved bell of a cup.


Laura Ring is a poet, short story writer, anthropologist, and librarian. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in
Dream Pop Journal, Ethel Zine, and RHINO, and she was a recent finalist in the DIAGRAM, Sundress, and Tiny Fork chapbook contests. A native Vermonter, she lives in Chicago.

Meeting Octavio Paz on the Planet Jupiter by Jose Hernandez Diaz

I met Octavio Paz on the planet Jupiter last fall. He said he’d been living there since his death. Myself, I was on vacation with my family. When I first saw Paz, I paused and asked myself, “Should I go up to him, he’s won the Nobel Prize?” I did. I introduced myself as a comic book writer and illustrator and that it was a pleasure to meet him. We shook hands. I didn’t want to talk about writing with him, so I asked his favorite soccer team. “Pumas,” he said. Later, he asked me what was the name of my most famous comic book so he could get a copy. “The Magician,” I told him. It was getting cold on Jupiter, so we called it a night after that. I never forgot his calmness, though, his class and elegance.

 

Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020). He has been a finalist for the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, the Colorado Poetry Prize, and the National Poetry Series. He lives in Los Angeles County where he is an educator and editor.

My Last Summer with Narcissus by Jozie Konczal

Saw us wither beneath the brazen
haze. Listen: I tried
to keep him
from starving. He carried
pocketsfull
of water just for himself, never-
mind the thirst I acquired. When
the pool dried up he took dips
into my bed, beneath
the doting willow, which
too shriveled as summer
turned up her notch
on cruelty. I kept
the mirrors covered. Perhaps
he misplaced
his beauty in me—

I bristled beneath
the gazes of strangers but
turned languid
when gifted his glances.
Enchantment can
be shared. He held
my shoulders as though
they could wilt
beneath his hands. My window
let in enough moonspill
for him to find reflection in
the pale hollow of
my neck, the water
of my irises. I had only
a sliver of clouds to
drink from. Finally, they
grew swollen and broke
into rainfall. I followed
him back to water, he waded
waist deep
and I couldn’t harvest
the voice to beg him back.

 
Jozie Konczal is a freelance writer and poet with an MFA from the Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins University. Her poems have been featured in Right Hand Pointing, Concho River Review, and Northern Virginia Review. She is also on the poetry staff of Cleaver Magazine, and is a contributing writer for EQ, a lifestyle magazine. 

Family Heirloom by Lilyanne Kane

On    

    pulpy  

        grass ‘neath

            the willow tree,  

                onyx snakes

            surface / thrash

       as water sweeps

    out of flooded

soil. Silver-fisted

    Grandaddy snatches

        one serpent. Gripping oil

            cord of sentient muscles

                at the base of its skull

            he slides the slippery

        beast into fledgling

    eggshell hands that

I    crack   open.  

    Zeppelins dripping

        along the vast sky

            within me. My thumb

                crosses sleet scales. Its

            tail thrashes. The

        creature constricts

    its tail around my

plump wrist and

    my viscid grip slips.

       Twin scarlet droplets

            sprout as fangs snap

                then vanish into the

                crick. I swallow salt

                and anger. The water

         runs clear of leechlike shadows.

      Still, I stalk through the reeds, rage-

        scorched, ‘til sunset as if I could        

             unsteal         his          bite,

                    exchange venom      

                         for naiveté.

                                 )

                                 (

                                 )

 

Lilyanne Kane is a non-binary butch lesbian poet and educator. They hold an MFA from the Mississippi University for Women. Their work can be found most recently in Passengers Journal, SOFTBLOW, and Open Minds Quarterly. They are on Twitter @CrumbPrince and on IG @PrinceOfCrumbs. 

The Night After the Procedure by Kara Knickerbocker

            I wake up, slick in the red darkness
not knowing my body as well anymore
but knowing enough something isn’t right,
worry that I’ve already baptized the bed
& try to right myself, make it slowly
to the bathroom, fumbling for light,
text you I can’t stop bleeding
& change through pad after pad
& finally give up, sit on the toilet‘s edge
as clotted globes, these other worlds
pour out of the open door of me
that I want to run out of but I can’t
even walk, my god I can’t do anything
but empty & stare in shock at the flood,
ask Google if I should go to the hospital
or if that’s money I don’t need to hemorrhage
& start to wonder if this is how I die
a woman drowned in herself, alone—
but at last the river runs dry just as the sky
begins to burn morning across the horizon
& it’s a strange thing to say, once spotless,
but I know so much is inside of us that
we never see & I watch the bright crimson
tint the water in the porcelain bowl, & I study
the scarlet stains seeping into my underwear
that I will later let soak & scrub, but for a moment,
I wear the rubies of my body like the precious thing it is,
so in awe of the bright red of a woman, who can love
& bleed from the most delicate part of her—
& think yes, this is fire that’s born from my very being

 

Kara Knickerbocker is the author of the chapbooks The Shedding Before the Swell (dancing girl press, 2018) and Next to Everything That is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poetry and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from: Poet Lore, Hobart, Levee Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Pennsylvania and writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University. Find her online: www.karaknickerbocker.com

Teratoma* by Keshe Chow

we were heartbeats together
                                              we share the blood
we whispered sweet words through webbed skin
                                               on our hands;
i bided my time, watched you outgrow your caul
                                                but i’m frozen,
my cells divide, hazard lights–
                                                suspended in time.
you surround, stifle, axphyxiate me
                                                i slowly dissolve,
like i’m drowning, and then i disappear,
                                                i won’t secede to
the agonal trappings of
                                                your fleshy prison.
this blighted half-life; won’t you just
                                                pull my hair
curl ‘round your finger, ‘cause i like it
                                                just like that.
what would happen if i burst out?
                                                i would just
strip off your mantle and take it,
                                                shred your skin.
you see, dear sister, you already forget–
                                                I have teeth    

* This piece can be read as two separate poems, or as one whole.

 

Keshe Chow is a Malaysian-born Chinese Australian veterinarian living in Melbourne with three humans and two cats. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Analogies and Allegories Literary Magazine, Maudlin House, Cross & Crow Keys, and Wrongdoing Magazine. In 2020 she won the Perito Prize and her short story was featured in their anthology.

Dear Wreckage by Matthew Murrey

“Tardigrades may have survived spacecraft crashing on moon”
The Guardian, headline, August 6, 2019

Good luck up there
little moss piglets, little water bears.
I first spied you in water
under a microscope decades ago.

I read how in one test you survived
exposure to space—the shattering
cold, cosmic rays, and an emptiness
that blows lungs and boils blood.

Tiny yet chubby, with eight legs and a valve
for a face, you are strange—but tough:
when there is nothing, you shrivel up
into an incredibly resistant crumb

while everything else is dead
set against you. Now you’re wrecked
on the moon—itty-bitty life notes
to a future countless lives

beyond mine. I hope you make it home
someday, that somebody—with some kind
of legs, eyes and hopes—scoops you up
brings you back, and soaks you to life.

That would deserve a parade, you as a giant
balloon. I’m picturing you floating five stories up
and guided down some wide avenue
like a huge Snoopy or a giant, yellow Pikachu.

 

Matthew Murrey’s poems have appeared in many journals such as Prairie SchoonerSplit Rock Review, and Under a Warm Green Linden. He’s the recipient of an NEA Fellowship, and his debut collection, Bulletproof – selected by Marilyn Nelson – was published in February 2019 by Jacar Press. He’s a public school librarian in Urbana, Illinois where he lives with his partner; they have two grown sons. He tweets at @mytwords and his website is at www.matthewmurrey.net.

Anatomy of a House Fire by Stella Lei

  1. Kitchen: Gas on the stove. Grease in the air. The pop-pop-pop of heat shriveling paper towels and dishcloths, fabric wilting into itself like a flower in reverse.
  2. Dining room: Smoke swelling like a storm. Placemats melting into table—saving spots for ghosts—checkered squares bleeding into particle board grain.
  3. Living room: Sofa cushions sparking. Mantle photographs—lips pursed before candles and cake, dimples, gapped teeth—burning like flash paper, each soot-smeared face a burst of gold.
  4. Closet: Twin coats tangled in embrace. Size small tucked inside large.
  5. Study: Patents. Novels. Comics. Superman flaking into ash, It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s—
  6. Hallway: A mother running, feet tangled in the carpet’s plush. A mother crawling with her head below smoke. A mother.
  7. Bedroom door: Fists blazing. Skin cracking against wood. Nails scratching against knob. A cry. A shout. Wake up. Please.  

 

Stella Lei’s work is published or forthcoming in Gone Lawn, Milk Candy ReviewWhale Road Review, and elsewhere. She is an Editor in Chief for The Augment Review, she has two cats, and she tweets @stellalei04.