Pecan Grove with Body Farm by Jack B. Bedell

Scrub brush sprawled and dead vines
along the edge of the trees, and bones

lying in fresh dirt. What would a deer
need to bring it here? Nothing green

to eat, no smell of new grass or
water to draw it into this clearing.

It chews a rib bone as quietly
as it can, skittish but not ready

to leave. I’m sure it would rather
crack pecan shells in its teeth

for soft meat, but it has this grave
all to itself, and more bones around its feet.

 

Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collections are Elliptic (Yellow Flag Press, 2016), Revenant (Blue Horse Press, 2016), and No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, fall 2018). He has been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.

I write a letter by Elisabeth Horan

Dear Dr:

it’s embarrassing
to request
accommodations
for a life
on hold – unable to
make phone calls;
go outside;
hold one’s own.

I lick the envelope
it’s sweet / it’s permanent
the blue box
will swallow it
no turning back now

Dear Dr:

it’s embarrassing
my mental health
deteriorating
please sign
this form which declares me

unable unable
to function –
make phone calls;
go outside
smile at the neighbor

I turn the key
set off an explosion
makes moot
my letter

the blue box
still chewing
on the fodder
I fed it

Good Dr:

shrugs; sighs,
it is permanent
I suppose – her mental
impairment; it
seems she
missed her
appointment

not the least bit
wondering if
I am already
dead

the blue box mangled;
metal feet hold tight
to the pavement

unable unable
to function
without her hinged
mouth &

iconic half-dome
USPS
head

 

Elisabeth Horan is an imperfect creature advocating for animals, children, and those suffering alone and in pain – especially those ostracized by disability and mental illness. Elisabeth is honored to serve as Poetry Editor at Anti-Heroin Chic Magazine, and is Co-Owner of Animal Heart Press. She recently earned her MFA from Lindenwood University and received a 2018 Best of the Net Nomination from Midnight Lane Boutique and a 2018 Pushcart Nomination from Cease Cows.

They’re Grackles and Every Time I See Them by Patric Pepper

I scrawl my admiration in my all-weather birder book.
I don’t really have an all-weather birder book at all,
just the one in my mind, where I’m free to scratch.
The grackles cluck
to have their say, and I like that. Sometimes they swell
& hop & spread dark wings & perch on my shoulder &
have a look
in my birder book.

Which is to say they examine my self-assured scratch
with their ESP black eyes that chill the spine
with their golden-zero fat-chance good-luck pupils—&
then they double-cluck & flap & bolt pell-mell.
In my birder book

I make up little poems (not really) that point in all uncertain
terms to how crooked they’re not, & how they,
the grackles,
invented the spoon, the hallmark of genius tails that steer
them as they buck & bolt away from Homo sapiens insults
like: “Trash birds!” & “Not worthy of poetry!” & “Filthy!”
These misapprehensions
I also scribble
in my birder book.

 

Patric Pepper has published a couple of chapbooks and a full-length collection along the way. His work has appeared most recently in or is forthcoming from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Broadkill Review, District Lines, Gargoyle, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, and The Northern Virginia Review. He prefers disorganized “religion” and misapprehensions of quantum mechanics to ersatz enlightenments. He lives in D.C.

Baptism by Ahja Fox

Remember kissing those knees soiled in May?

Statues were pointing at bodies, windswept,
as we sat idle at the door of a bone church.

We cupped tomorrow in girlish hands
our intrepid hearts resin-soaked, jeweled;
reincarnated fetish priests dragging
our generation by their strange throats.

Cherry springs rotted,
                became flesh-eating children

        and I promised you an edifice
        that would split blue,
        touch Centaurus—
        a prayer closet smolder.

We ate lake seeds, tongued dirt
until those bodies         were no longer heavy.

 

Ahja Fox is a poet obsessed with bodies/body parts (specifically the throat). Her tagline is “#suicidebywriting” and her muses are dead things found among the living. Ahja can be found around Denver reading at various events and open mics or co-hosting at Art of Storytelling. She has published in online and print journals like Five:2:One, Driftwood Press, Rigorous, Moonchild Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, SWWIM, and more. She has also recently been included in the 2018 Punch Drunk Anthology. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @aefoxx.

The Visitor, or Not Quite Flesh by Alex Smith

I never thought you existed. You were a fight
in another room, a moon landing, someone
else’s problem.
But now you’re here. Recumbent flotsam
gone sour on our sofa.

And now, it’s like you’ve been here
the whole time, crouching behind
lonely larder tins, nesting in the
plaster cracks. You make us into you
and your
not quite flesh.

I’d offer you a drink,
coffee I suppose,
but the cups are full with
blister packs.

You were in our bed this morning,
muddying the womb of the place,
warm and
heavy as a sleeping child.

You’re in the strangest places.
I know you’ve watched me in the shower, squeaked
love hearts on the frosted glass, grabbed ringside seats
at our love making, left
popcorn kernels for naked feet to tramp,
each its own
little death.

I’ve caught you in mirrors, whispering
imagined infidelities in her ear,
retuning guitars an octave low, breaking all the
major keys.

Uninvited, you leaf through
books, records, trip trap fingers delicately
dripping scorn
for still-faced ornaments, pronounce our poverty,
pick your teeth with cutlery as she cries
on vinyl floors.

Sometimes, I want to
kill you. Pitch you on your back,
push
a thumb each side of

your pitted windpipe, squeeze
the life and pulse until you
pop
gift air
incontinent
like a skin balloon.
But what’s the point?

Besides the dust, you’ve dislodged
other things,
embryos
we hoped buried.

We keep the kids out now. And other guests as you are
a shy intruder. You hide in petticoats
so they’d never know.

You’re a secret bruise, a
cuff pulled down on
red raw wrists, weak
eternal canker, the moment just before
a door
slams
shut.

We know you will never leave.

What discord then,
that we endure your tremendous
vacuum,
file your teeth
and castrate you
with acceptance.

I wonder,
if we were to
take the shards of us and
carve and mould
some other selves,
would you remember us
and come again?

 

With a foot firmly each side of the Irish Sea, Alex Smith was raised in troubled Northern Ireland during the Eighties. Educated in English and Spanish, his work has taken him to some of the most socially deprived schools in England. His stark poetry has been published in Twyckenham Notes, Tammy, Clear Water Poetry, Bonnie’s Crew, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Ink & Voices, and Coffin Bell. He edits at ABC Tales and has a collection entitled Home coming soon through Cerasus Poetry.

last will and testament by Amy Kinsman

of the northern white rhinoceros

i leave you this: a parting gift of ivory,
and task you make for me an urn
fit to hold the ash. carve it with unicorns
and aurochs, mastodons and my woolly-haired
compatriots. set it with ammonites and amber;
stand me upon the shoulders of great pearl
elephants and play me out of kenya on
antique piano keys.

this was meant to be easy, just close my eyes and drift,
but didn’t some of you make it so hard?

make me a myth: tell them a hundred warriors
could not slay sudan the great; say i slumbered
upon mountains of diamonds; claim one tear
could heal, or a drop of blood might raise the dead.
i go to palaeontology. i’ll tread softly through
the dreams of children, let their open palms
smooth over grey, wrinkled flesh
and grant for them a wish.

for them i’ll always be a story.
for them i’ll never need exist.

 

Amy Kinsman (they/them) is a genderfluid poet from Manchester, England. As well as being founding editor of Riggwelter Press and associate editor of Three Drops From A Cauldron, they are also the host of a regular poetry open mic. Their debut pamphlet & was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017.

If This Is a Death I Still Have so Much to Be Thankful For by Bailey Cohen

I’ve been so terrible
lately and so ugly too,
yet this has all so conveniently
provided reason
for my vanishing.
I start first with my left
hand, watch ash turn
into air, dispensable thing,
you were never as useful
as my right hand, which,
when it disappears, will be
much stranger and much
wiser than my left hand.
I do not yet know how this
will show itself, perhaps
as tiny miniature hands
straining their wrist-necks out
of my fingertips. Alternatively,
my right hand could be
more pruned, soaked
by the river. At this point,
the moon has only mostly
disappeared, and with it,
my left arm, up to my
shoulder. I am a miracle
of physics, balancing
effortlessly despite my
body’s fascination
with naught. It will
only cross my mind
when only my mind is left
that there must be something holier
than all this becoming
of a ghost. If this is a death,
I still have so much to be
thankful for, all of my atoms
harmonious in their surrendering.
For instance, my brother seems wholly
intact. Unable to see what is happening
beneath the surface of the water,
he sees only my floating head,
foolishly assuming there is more
to me than this. Across the bank
where we are swimming, I watch,
voicelessly, a bird leap,
then evaporate.

 

Bailey Cohen is a queer, Ecuadorian-American poet studying at NYU. He is the editor of Alegrarse Journal, a contributing writer for Frontier Poetry, and a Best of the Net nominee. Bailey’s work is forthcoming in publications such as Boulevard, Boiler Journal, and The Penn Review, and has appeared in Raleigh Review, The Shallow Ends, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and more. He loves everyone Latinx.

My Animal Life: An Autobiography in 10 Parts by Sara Barnard

1. In the beginning, Lassie. That old mongrel. But the first death is just the first death. I cried more over Jane who ended up with half her body not working. The vet handed her back in a box, so we could bury her in the garden. Guinea pig doesn’t sound serious enough for such sobs.

2. The Russian hamsters – Rachmaninoff & Shostakovich – were not a great success. I won’t say more here, but I failed them. Twice.

3. I nearly had kittens, but another girl got to them first and it was hard to forgive. Tabby was adventurous; Polly feral, scratching skin to blood.

4. The best of times was Christmas and Christmas was for donkeys. Afternoon walks through graying streets, pockets clunky with chocolate coins, pink sugar mice.

5. My brother, grown to greatness, began the Christmas Rat Walks. I leave to your imagination the river’s path, the stones, the hilarity. Thus do traditions evolve.

6. Miggy, our funny Welsh collie. We loved you, even with the bellows, crossing fields like you had no home, and we took you home to the slate-strewn hills whenever we could, but maybe you just didn’t understand our tongue.

7. Herdwicks and heifers and little lamb who made thee asked mum every Easter, as we drove past daffodil-splattered fields. I heard those words even when the lamb was bloody, abandoned by a wall.

8. Trigger, Benji, Copper, Whisper: you held us, our growing legs wrapped round you. Racing and falling. You carried the coffin painted with sunflowers through the snow when we mourned more brightly than anyone had ever mourned before.

9. Are there more? I forget. But the dogs! So many hounds that jumped in and out of things while their owners will never be remembered apart. The un-dogged were barely complete. Sam, Trixie. Holly, Hunsa, Jack, Jen, Luca, Milo, Isla, Luna. I can’t find, now, all the names, but the smells, the hairs, the wellies at the doors. Walks in woods, so now every path has something missing. Murphy. You were so loved.

10. Then came the sea and the sea-held creatures. The ocean and its furies. The plankton-full swirling. The drifters, the jumpers, the soarers. Another world of lives to never fully know. Instinct takes over. We wait out the storm.

 

Sara Barnard is from the UK, has lived in Spain and Canada, and is now based on a sailboat (currently in Central America) with her husband, child, and laptop for company. The last few years have mainly been about parenting and PhDing. She recently has had work published in Bone & Ink Press, Glass Poetry Resists, Hypertrophic LiteraryInk & Nebula, and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Up There the Mountains Burn Worse by Tom Snarsky

They tell you a story with a giant pause
in the middle: we were lost in thick mists
until somebody found us, brought us

a coat and their warm company, told us
not to worry. Then we woke up next to the
corpse of that somebody, holding an empty

vial that we don’t remember ever having
picked up, we’re terribly thirsty and there’s
no one else around who’s still alive. Cut to

after the giant pause, when even we have
fallen asleep. Now that no one’ll overhear—
not even us—go ahead and tell me that

awful secret you’re keeping from everyone,
even your lovers and your closest friends.
The curtain is still down and the house lights

are still up. So go slow. We have the whole intermission.

 

Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School. He lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts among stacks of books and ungraded papers with his fiancée Kristi and their two cat children, Niles and Daphne.

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.