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.

The Red Ladybug by Paul Rousseau

She sees a ladybug
crawling across her
bedroom windowsill.
An urge to crush it comes over her.
To make a mini mortar and pestle matter
of red and yellow guts.
The exact moment she decides to spare the insect,
she realizes it is already dead—
and only reanimated by the periodic gusts
of her oscillating fan.

 

Paul Rousseau is a disabled writer from Minnesota. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Catapult,  Roxane Gay’s The Audacity, X-R-A-Y, and JMWW.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday and this morning… by Atma Frans

when you stepped out of the bath, the mirror laughed
at the wrinkles cartwheeling down your belly
and the slack-jawed skin just hanging around.
Your once round-shouldered breasts flapped about
not quite sure what was still expected of them.
You surveyed the age spots, scars and crooked bits—marks
of the times you trolleyed your body through life like a cocky suitcase.
And then you towelled it, this loyal, beautiful friend.

 

Stories and poems by Atma Frans have been published in The New Quarterly and Arc Poetry Magazine, as well as long-listed for The ELQ/Exile’s Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Competition and the Writers Union’s Short Prose Competition. In her writing, Atma searches for the voice beneath her personas: woman, immigrant, mother, Sikh, trauma survivor, expressive arts therapist, queer, and poet. She lives in Gibsons, B.C.

Family Monsters by Donald Illich

As Mothra, I spin around
the family room, seeking
anywhere but flames.

Mom is Rodan, screeching
at anything that makes her
angry. My father, though,

crashes through the scene
as Godzilla, the big destroyer
who burns all resistance,

leaving smoke in his wake.
He occupies the living room,
while we cry in the kitchen,

I daub Rodan’s tears with wings,
while she massages my back
with her beak. If only we could find

a way to live in peace together.
But it’s too late for that.
We’ve been exposed to radiation

our whole lives, the toxic waste
of guilt and recriminations.
We might dwell under the same sky,

soldiers might try to fire on us all,
but we must depart to separate lairs,
pledging one day to return.

In the future we will not be creatures.
We’ll turn back into human beings,
wearing a suit, a dress, a concert t-shirt,

whatever forms the fates allow,
to once again go outside in the light,
breathing nothing but clean air.

 

Donald Illich has published poetry in journals such as The Iowa Review, Fourteen Hills, Map Literary, Passages North, and Cold Mountain Review. He won Honorable Mention in the Washington Prize book contest. He recently published a book, Chance Bodies (The Word Works, 2018).

Lilith with Snake, with Body by Kathryne David Gargano

lilith with snake
 
Link to text readable PDF here: poetry lilith with snake gargano

 

Kathryne David Gargano (she/her) hails from the Pacific Northwest, but isn’t very good at climbing trees. She is a queer poet and fiction writer currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. Her work has been published in Pithead Chapel, Salt Hill, Phoebe, minnesota review, Tahoma Review, and others. She can be found on Twitter @doubtfulljoy.

Anarchic Sight Theory by Luke Burton

Each Sunday I play pool with eyeballs for billiard balls
at the Other Place & envision what it might be like to be touched
by felt & fluorescence in alternation. The light of passing cars
filters occasionally through our pitchers of PBR. I know no metaphor
for sight, yet the beams protrude, pint shaped,
from the sockets of anonymous angels. Lines sharp as axe blades
gently part the trees, then brush away before the fall.
You ask where the terror is located—
Is it in the horse yet to be broken or the broken horse?

I’m embarrassed by my telos,
a stance of cue balls awaiting sticks. The future
perfect will be an ongoing breeze. I have no theory
for dream without waking. Falling from the lake onto the shore,
I wanted to know how you felt about the hurricane
hoarding air above the Atlantic, the one that shares a name
with your lover. Instead, I zipped my coat against the wind —
whose breath? A thin horse swept up from the South
and kicked my eyeballs back into their dark pockets.

 

Luke Burton is a poet and artist writing from Burlington, Vermont. His work has appeared in Crossroads Magazine, The Redlands Review, Pomeroy Poets Anthology, Bard Papers, and more. He is a senior Editor at GENERAL SUBJECT and NO SUBJECT Press.

 

Cruelties by Richelle Sushil

A newspaper page. Mothwing thin. Translucent, in your grandfather’s shaking hands. The way the streetlight watches him through the window, never saying a thing.

The first tooth you ever lost. Swallowed.

Photographs laminated in yellowed scotchtape. The way the little cobweb faces smile from yesterday, ignoring you completely.

The lines under your mother’s eyes. How you drew them the same way you drew on the wallpaper at five years old, while she slept.

The first boy you ever loved – how he ran his hands over you like he was at the supermarket, trying to work out The Good Fruit.

The way anything, at any time, could so easily tear a seam in the night.

How all of life is punctuated by the pairing and unpairing of socks.

The worry that some of them are bound to get sucked up into the machinery of the washing machine.

The thought that you might be the washing machine.

 

Richelle Sushil is an Indian-Indonesian poet and literature student from Jakarta currently pursuing her MA at UCL. Her poetry has recently won the Cosmo Davenport-Hines Prize 2020, and is featured or forthcoming in Hobart, Wild Court, and Honey Literary, amongst other publications. She tweets @RichelleSushil.