op-ed from the balloon that escaped the trunk of my mom’s car in 1989 by Catherine Weiss

all balloons should be shaped like balloons / not letters / do not espalier a balloon sentence to a wall / for any reason / even to be inspirational do not do this / it is a cruel abomination / the only message a balloon should introduce is the concept of loft / tension / desire / for elsewhere / & beyond / & before / this is the inherent dignity of a balloon / also do not fill a banquet hall with balloon bouquets / or a living room with mylar minnie mice / do not be cavalier with the balloon / nor take the scarcity of helium for granted / do not photograph a balloon / without her express permission / balloons are the provenance of mystery / specifically childhood / & accumulated dust / never allow a balloon to expire / exhausted on the pantry floor / without proper ceremony / and if you tire of a balloon / do not tell / your beautiful friend / big & yellow & covered in stars / that you do not love her anymore / instead / consider your commitment / a green ribbon tied around your wrist / rekindle what you can / smell that good rubber-skin smell / touch the balloon with the flat of your tongue / please / i urge you / do not let her go

 

Catherine Weiss is a poet and artist from Maine. Their poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Tinderbox, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Fugue, Birdcoat, Bodega, petrichor, Counterclock, Freezeray, and elsewhere. Catherine was the 2017 Grand Slam Champion of Northampton Poetry and has competed at the National Poetry Slam, the Individual World Poetry Slam, and the Women of the World Poetry Slam. Their manuscript “unlove” was selected as a finalist in the 2019 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest. More at catherineweiss.com.

At the Bottom of the Ocean You Weigh One-Third Less by Camille Ferguson

I.
Stiff in early morning the floorboards curse
beneath me, my bones crack like glass, drag behind me
like anchors. I shuffle to the sink;
I yawn warm-stink & I want
to shatter each and every
sauce-stuck wet-mush dinner-platter:
residues of my ravenous.
My hunger permeates.

II.
At the wishing-well I plead to be satiated, filled with grace–
then I swallow the whole lot of dreams.

III.
I think tons                           about tons
        about the act of         sinking.

How dreams weigh you down.

About large, and beautiful, ships greening
with moss in the dark, shiny bodies swimming in & out
of bodies.

About dreams way down.

IV.
I wonder at the bulging debt of my gut. I abase the
full-moon shape; soft-
ness of my jaw. I dream it cuts like glass.
In the ceramic blue wash-basin swims
my sharpened willingness to diminish,
like a circle longing after an oval.
  What an odd desire: to pare myself down
with my silver like a sculpture,
carve myself to a spire.             Something nice to sea:
the thin line of horizon.       Sinking, I see
my crystal whiskey glasses,
the dainty crescent lips of the decanter.
How long before the sediment
of my rancor settles? Before I am acceptable
                                                             & digestible?

V.
With my mutilated fingers
in the foam water washing I wonder how long before
these small knives smooth over, turn to sea-glass, pennies
swollen with the ocean’s blue-green.
O, to be buoyant, foam sliced from wave;
the difference between
solid, & gas. I wish on every used-up penny
I could float, on air, or through life,
like a small beautiful thing.
O, how I wish this were an ode
            to the weight of the whole ocean.
            Instead, I know that
at the bottom of the ocean          you weigh one-third less.

 

Camille Ferguson lives in and loves Cleveland, Ohio. Camille recently graduated from Cleveland State University where she received the Neal Chandler Creative Writing Enhancement Award. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Ligeia Magazine, Rabid Oak, Madcap Review, Drunk Monkeys, and Memoir Mixtapes, among others.

break/through by Cara Waterfall

“And see how the flesh grows back / across a wound, with a great vehemence, / more strong than the simple, untested surface before.”
                        ~ Jane Hirshfield, What Binds Us

call it unlovely,
a wanton blotch,
an undone stitch

call it a raw blossom
garish as a flare

call it the reef’s
clamour seething
to the surface

a scorched line,
heat clawing its way
out of my body

call it reptilian,
webbed & thickening —
a mottled seam

call it my
skin’s frayed hymn,
my body’s scripture

what’s left,
but the gnarled root of memory,
raking its debris,
with metal teeth
over me

what dark wounds
we are made of,
how they wreck & remake

I eulogize my younger skin
& all things young, but
I will never disown this —
revision, souvenir, script,
seal? — this gilded asymmetry,
of what was.

We heal ragged
even on the inside, pain inlaid
like an everlasting nacre.

Still,
praise what was salvaged:
the self, ravaged
now rising.

 

Ottawa-born and Costa Rica-based, Cara Waterfall’s work has been featured or is forthcoming in Best Canadian Poetry, SWWIM, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and The Fiddlehead, among others. She won Room’s 2018 Short Forms contest and second place in Frontier Poetry’s 2018 Award for New Poets. In 2019, she was a finalist for Radar Poetry’s The Coniston Prize and shortlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Most recently, she won the Editors’ Prize for the 2020 Magpie Award for Poetry. She has a Poetry & Lyric Discourse diploma from The Writer’s Studio at SFU, and a diploma from the London School of Journalism.

sorry sorry (sorry) by Kora Schultz

sorry i can’t come to the phone right now,
my body is 1000 hedgehogs in a trenchcoat

& loud noises make them nervous.
            & soft noises make them nervous.

i pay my carcass rent with stillness.
even the life rafts make thunder of
my limbs.             the critters know this.

they keep score when my muscles can’t.
baby,                 i’ll have to call you back.

 

Kora Schultz (they/them) is a queer Wisconsin-based poet, writing student, and assistant editor with Juke Joint Magazine. By day, they work with folks experiencing homelessness. Their work has appeared in various literary magazines, poetry journals, and on their partner’s fridge. You can find them on Instagram and Twitter at @oatmilkmom.

Tendrils by Rachel Brown

I have a kidney bean blooming beneath my jeans.
As a child I feared watermelon seeds, but never kidney beans.

I can feel new growth, leaves entangling between my vertebrae
tender sprouting between by ribs,
a lattice of light green climbing up
my skeletal walls, coaxing the sunlight
out of my skin, glowing beneath my fingernails,
turning me green.

There is a delicate balance, as it
grows brighter, stronger,
larger, and I grow tired feeding
relentless nature with joy and self-made sunlight.

I never wanted to grow kidney beans between my breasts
and beneath my nerves. I do not know how
to remove roots, repot or nurture to maturity
the glowing inside me.

But now I have a kidney bean whose tendrils
caress my neck and help me find sunshine
and relief.

 

Rachel Brown holds Bachelor’s degrees in Creative Writing and English Literature, as well as a forthcoming Master’s degree in English Literature from Central Washington University, where she also teaches composition. Her creative work has appeared in Northwest Boulevard. She is currently reading, writing, teaching, and running in Eastern Washington.

The world will end tonight… by Austin Davis

the weatherman says,
when the flower heads twist down
at a quarter past 6.

Remember that summer of hot breath,
open windows, and making love
to the sound of bicycles passing by?

Kiss me soft
as the clouds peel away
from the sun like dark yellow apple skins.

Let me hold you,
run my hands through your hair,
these last few minutes.

 

Austin Davis is a poet and student activist currently studying creative writing at ASU. Austin is the author of The World Isn’t the Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore (Weasel Press, 2020) and Celestial Night Light (Ghost City Press, 2020). You can find Austin on Twitter @Austin_Davis17 and on Instagram @austinwdavis1.

Christmas Plainsong, or Several Near Apologies to My Son by David Wright

Not for the morning when my foot slipped a stair and you, infant boy, and I were in the air only long enough for me to crook your sweet skull in my elbow. We came down, together, on the hardwood. The tiny fissures in your head healed, they said. Not mine.

Not for the year in Disney when you and your mother could not breathe, though in the photos we look pleased, enough, catching sharp breaths together.

Not for the night-slide on glare ice when, somehow, we found ourselves facing forward and drove home. And not that other night when, below zero, we turned around and stayed inside all weekend with people we barely knew. Eventually, you went outside. I heard you singing in the shoulder-deep snow.

For this sweater, yes, I am sorry. Also, for the hawk I hit with my car and how you thought I’d killed an angel. I have never killed one, as I would be sore afraid.

But, no, I am not sorry for the year we made a tree of green construction paper and taped it to the sliding glass doors. My landlord was sorry, but forgive him. He was a small green grinch even a god could love.

And never for last year when our friend prowled us through the hushed streets of this little half-brick town and the college women threw you down a hill on a garbage bag sled and you broke no arms for a change and then did it again and I lied and said you had asked for a grown woman for Christmas. I was wrong. Also, I love you.

What I am, son, is oddly sorry for the hymns, Veni, Veni, and Stille Nacht and The Bleak Midwinter. How many I have made you listen to each year, even in your sleep, and how I make you sing along until candle wax burns your knuckles. It is not the singed skin I regret.

I am instead sorry for the branch, the rose blooming, the rod of Jesse, how deep they root and gnarl themselves through a boy’s chest, rise up in his throat even when he is a middle-aged man. Go ahead. Try and forget them when they also live in your mouth. Ask your sister, too, about this plain song she cannot lose.

And the story, the one about an infant god in the dark and the straw, how he keeps returning like a star. This will come to you when you righteously ball your fist and feel in your palm a thorn.

Listen, or don’t. Sing along or stay quiet. But once you have been in a room of voices like this, the lush hush right before the Pacem, the last Noel, the final Alleluia which has to be sung, you will find those little cracks at the base of your brain still contain a song much truer than you, or I, or anyone we know can sing alone.

 

David Wright’s poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in 32 Poems, Image, Poetry East, and Another Chicago Magazine, among others. His most recent poetry collection is Local Talent (Purple Flag/Virtual Artists Collective, 2019). He can be found on Twitter @sweatervestboy.

meditations on a night swim by Stephanie Neuerburg

Hunter and Hannah watch me from the shore
except they do not watch me,
they watch each other
and I watch them watching each other

my feet don’t reach the bottom here

I swim out to the end of the pier and then
back to the shore,
where Hunter and Hannah still watch each other,
then back out, past the pier
and wait

I don’t dunk my head in, either,
not this time
just let the green-blue Chihuly waves
caress my neck and press against me
green-blue from above
green-blue from the sides
green-blue from below and between my legs

being touched often feels like
waiting for something to be taken away from me

here in the water where its only request
is to float or go under —
whichever
I prefer
— the touch of the cool wet gargantuan glass
feels like a responsibility
gifted to me by God

I dream of water passing through
my lips, my eyes, my ears
all my orifices
and my orisons
filling my throat and my stomach
until it presses through the tips of me and back out
into the lake where it belongs

ripping right through me,
a swimmer
drowning in the cool wet arms
of a body that knows how to hold me

 

Stephanie Neuerburg is an actor, playwright, and poet based in Chicago, IL. Her work has been featured at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Oregon Fringe Festival, Ashland New Plays Festival, and Seattle Public Theater, among others in the Puget Sound, Bay, and Chicagoland areas. Her original play Science Night was a national finalist for the John Cauble Outstanding Short Play Award in 2015. Stephanie holds a major in performance and a minor in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry from Southern Oregon University, and has worked with award-winning playwright Anne Washburn, Tony Award-winning director Bill Rauch, and poet K. Silem Mohammad. For more information visit www.stephanieneuerburg.com.

Portrait of a Womb as Painted by Flies by Ashley Dailey

My doctor tells me I am as full
& empty as a window.

Actually, what she says is polyps.
I imagine mushrooms growing

along my insides,
delicate umbrellas glowing in the dark.

I am forest floor: network of one thing
but not another.

On NPR, I hear a story about maggots
used to clean wounds.

They eat dead or dying skin,
prevent the spread of disease.

A woman nearly loses
her feet to July’s sunbaked asphalt.

She says, I have a high tolerance for heat.
She describes the tickle

of maggots rolling beneath skin,
she host to hundreds of babies.

The heartbreak when they are excavated—
smashed garlic on a scalpel.

Home smells sweet & rotten.
I peel soft bananas off the counter, replace them.

(my self is the only thing inside myself)

Each afternoon sunlight finds my kitchen table between
the hours of not long & enough.

How do flies get in?—there is a maggot-sized gap
dividing wound & womb.

Flies pepper the window,
my fingers—sticky with what they want.

 

Poet Ashley Dailey is an MFA candidate in the creative writing program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she is a poetry editor for Grist Journal and host of the virtual reading series Chiasmus. She is the winner of an Academy of American Poets Prize and has most recently been published by Peatsmoke Journal and Oddville Press

aubade/alba by Isaura Ren

before the dusk shrugs off its
            velvet, let me wrap us up.
you understand some moments must
            be private, clutched so tight the
tendons tremble. others may lay bare
            their naked faces to the sun—
not us, not quite yet. not with you
            in me in you, hand on hand
on pillow. never mind the threat of
            day that’s spilled along the sill.
never mind the neighbors, the glare
            of their headlights. where
curtains fail, our blankets never will,
            this silk cocoon our kingdom.
knight me. make me a body worthy
            of flight. i’ll draw my wings
against the coup of dawn, a shield
              for you and me. like this,
we’ll flit from room to room, moths
              on the wrong side of the glass,
fleeing its eastern rise and languid
              western fall. let’s soar past
hallways and laundry, avoid the
            cold of open doors, let in no
ghosts but each other. you could stay
            forever if we time this right.

 

Isaura Ren (she/they) is a poet, writer, and the Editor-in-Chief of perhappened mag. Her poems have appeared in After the PauseKissing DynamiteSea Foam Mag, and more. She would do anything for love, but she won’t do that. Find her on Twitter @isaurarenwrites.