Uncle Lazarus has a magic trick by Cheyenne McIntosh

he’s come to live with us now that he can’t go home
after he tried to set fire to Mary and Martha in the middle of the night,
weeping about how his old man touched him, back in the Old Country

now there’s a restraining order and a court date, so Uncle sleeps
at the foot of my bed, spilling his drink in my bedsheets
and telling stories from day-trips to the family lake

he wakes me up early this morning, with a treasure to show me:
I follow him through the house, hearing Bathsheba’s breath through the walls
as she sleeps, knowing the rules of being alone with Uncle

there’s an overturned glass waiting for us on the bathroom counter:
inside a cluster fly, the kind that slips in through our windows for winter
before dying, leaving behind a honey smell and their eggs within our walls

these are easy flies for trapping – they float lazily from room to room,
easier to catch and kill with their speed and size – and Uncle has drowning plans,
carefully lifting the glass to insert a straw filled with water, his dirty finger

a stopper until the placement is right and he rains down his prey, the fly
struggling at first before giving up – its tiny insect lungs filling with water,
its delicate wings wet and heavy and immobile – and this is the first living thing

I have ever watched die. Uncle watches my face, his dirty finger tracing the
tears on my lips before he pulls a salt shaker out of his pajama pocket,
the one he uses at night for his tequila game, licking his hand before shooting back

he buries the fly in the salt and tells me the story about that time
he tried to teach my mother to swim in the lake and she almost drowned
because he was drinking and all little girls know how to swim in the Old Country

it’s easy to drown, he explains as the salt dries up the water,
the cluster fly now awake again and climbing out of its salt-grave

 

Cheyenne McIntosh is an undergraduate at Franklin College, where she writes about gender-queer studies in science fiction. She’s the Leading Poetry Editor of Brave Voices Magazine and an editorial intern for Juxtaprose Magazine and Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in carte blanche, Likely Red Press, Digital Americana Magazine, Small Po[r]tions, and elsewhere. In 2018, she was named as one of Indiana’s Best Emerging Poets and received her first Pushcart Prize nomination. You can find her @crm_writes.

Hypotheticals by Zach VandeZande

A person wakes up one morning to find that they are sad. This is not news, as a person is often sad. The sadness that a person feels does not require a reason, but a person, being rational, seeks one anyway. And then, from there, maybe a solution could be looked for.

It might happen like this: a person sits up in bed, prepares to live a whole day, uses a cell phone to watch a video of a dog eating pizza, and then is forced to reckon with their sadness. A person might wonder how universal their experience is without that universality or lack thereof causing a further wrinkle to the sadness that they experience. This is of course allowed and possible and even happens, sometimes. A person might suppose that focusing on the universality of experience might even be a kind of solution to sadness. Though in some—even many—cases it isn’t.

Or else a person might rise immediately, skipping the phone-in-bed part of the morning, looking for the dew-dappled new feeling of young daylight. In that case there might perhaps be something in the air worth breathing in, or streaks of yellow pollen on all the cars, or actual chirping birds—birds not existing only as the providence of the proverbial—or just a chance at seeing people dressed nicely for work or school might be enough to cause a forgetting of sadness. A person might need only to forget for a minute for the sadness to be gone. Sadness might be as fleeting as joy.

If not, though, a person might search for places to go on vacation. A person might stay in playing video games all day, claiming illness. A person might masturbate or have sex with a stranger, might take sadness out for a drive or might just take sadness out on someone else. A person might get a hermit crab at a store in a beach community and make it a little beachy home in a plastic terrarium bought for that purpose. There’s so much a person might do, each if so crowded with thens. And is this abundance a part of the sadness, or is it rather that out of that abundance only one thing ever happens?

Finally, a person might invent for themselves some kind of framing device to bracket off the things that they feel into discrete units of meaning. They might make a list of reasons they feel sad and reasons they shouldn’t. They might spreadsheet or bullet journal the mess of feeling until it reveals its way to be clean. They might write a story, even, that puts their sadness at such a remove that they no longer have to hold on to it. Imagine that. Imagine a person so foolish and desperate.

When a person arrives at the beach community, they might stop at a lunch stand and order a sandwich and two kinds of chips. They might wonder how they would write it all down. Is it a west coast beach or an east coast beach? It doesn’t much matter, probably, except in the brand of chips available, in the particular texture of décor. Are there surfers, or are there retirees walking their black labs? Are there rocks, driftwood, the placental bag of a dead jellyfish, a kind of life so foreign as to be unrecognizable and new to a person? Will a person meet someone? Will a person convince a friend to come along? Will a person feel connected to nature or to people or to god/existence/their own eager self? And what of the sun in the sky? Will it be beautiful today? Will a person find it beautiful? And can someone here tell me if there’s a next?

 

Zach VandeZande is an author and professor. He lives in Ellensburg, Washington (sometimes) and Washington, DC (sometimes). He is the author of a novel, Apathy and Paying Rent (Loose Teeth Press, 2008), and a forthcoming short story collection, Liminal Domestic: Stories (Gold Wake Press, 2019). He knows all the dogs in his neighborhood.

Bleed and Breathe the Air by E. Kristin Anderson

I:

This Could Take All Night

From the sea floor I wait for everyone. Say goodbye
to the generator, my blue wire, just circles through skin.
I’m not high, not drinking down the spoils to save me,
numb and cold in my murdering dress, I line up alone.

Unwind me in a dream burn—these dreams laced
and lost in you again, the clean night our last sail
and I swear—an aurora will die and tether us
so I learn the ordinary—the blood is wearing well.

I’m frayed around the ends, tied to the next home
and I’m red, red, now—taking pleasure in breaking
down. That day my stitches were someone to know;
still my motored heart is firing on and on and on.

I promise to find glitter, to face angels, to want—
you started it, this breakout, this dizzy revolution.

 

II:

In the Lost and Found

You started it—this breakout. This dizzy revolution
can’t change back. Truth hollow, I live in the sky tonight
satisfied with the burn, wasting time, my insides numb
into a bullet, this blast a cure for the lights, a riot cry.

I greet the sun when it arrives, the glitter we climb
and here—a hello collides, a tangled demand found
where I quit metamorphosis. I believe in sick. I wind
around wires. Tonight I’m leaving. The stacked dead

are much too proud for my dreams, a wonderful mess.
Aging is complication; I’ve found no pleasure in home.
Yesterday is left underground, these stars spin a noose
calling unanswered, calling unanswered, the divide down.

Here aurora is a bruise, a life, an ordinary embrace—
hello is how I get somewhere in my blood dress.

 

III:

Trade Your Outside In

Hello is how I get somewhere in my blood dress—
clean and cold, I’m killing beautiful for the sun.
And here I quit the bastards and sink a wire noose,
calling underground for dizzy truth: you’re a friend.

Mirror, mirror, I cry to the rafters, to bright hell
and my skin is free to take all night on revolution.
Swear you’ll never tell: tonight I like my life tangled—
one of these days I’ll be more than a mannequin.

If we fired down this divide, left embracing the dead,
I’d haunt it, demand heart. I’m not nursing patience
and their wearing burn is hollow, stacked and faded.
Next year life runs out; we sleep and dream in stitches.

I could stay sick, the hole we fill with breaking night;
from the sea floor I wait for everyone: Say goodbye.

 

This is a found poem. Source material: Foo Fighters. There Is Nothing Left To Lose, Roswell/RCA, 1999.

 

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet, Starbucks connoisseur, and glitter enthusiast living in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90’s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and Hysteria: Writing the female body (Sable Books, forthcoming). Kristin is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including A Guide for the Practical Abductee (Red Bird Chapbooks), Pray, Pray, Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time she worked nights at The New Yorker. Find her online at www.EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter @ek_anderson.

Deer. Us. by Arlene Ang and Valerie Fox

The summer the deer moved in was our last chance to move out. They camped on the lawn all day and dropped suspicious pellets on the grass and walkways. Our mother turned into a frenzy of shouting. She spent hours shaking and throwing household objects at them—hammers, different Bibles, watering cans, shoes, and once a broken chair. However, they would simply stamp their hooves in her direction or ignore her. My brother Simon and I watched the situation worsen from our second-story bedroom window. We had no money, but we stayed cool on “borrowed” ice cream. The deer, we figured, were less lucky. People didn’t come over to bring food or pat their cheeks because their father had run off with the gas station floozy.

Then came our mother’s obsessive redecoration. She covered over the kitchen walls with birch bark and pages from Bass Master and Gourmand Highlights. Most nights she stayed up rearranging the living room furniture. “See? We’re in New York now,” she said. “We don’t need to move out to change our environment or have a better life. It’s all about interior design.”

Simon accepted this without question. He was four years younger than I was and only knew about our mother’s “salad days” (her expression) based on the practice of historical tableau. He usually got to hold the colors while I jumped over a small hill and yelled, “Mulligan!” This kept us occupied after the cable got cut off. I also started studying deer behavior and writing stories about their hidden relationships. Simon could barely read. It didn’t stop him from flushing my notes down the toilet or breaking my pens in half. He believed that fictional characters were works of the Devil and could possess anyone who read about their lives.

We were on our 67th day of eating cold cheese sandwiches for lunch when an anonymous postcard postmarked Velva, Wyoming arrived. Our mother had been lying all these years about having a twin sister. Fortunately, I intercepted this message before anyone could read it. I hid it between the pages of The Deer Hunter, which I kept under my mattress. I wish I could say I lost track of time or that summer went by in a blur, but when you’re young you keep track of everything. Every hour, like a white lie or betrayal, told a story that was connected to a spider web of past and future hours.

Simon’s fears grew horns the day our mother decimated all her potted plants by watering them. I thought it was some sort of badass voodoo and laughed. Simon and our mother weren’t amused. Around the house, leaves and flowers turned black and littered the floor like charred suicide notes. That was when I noticed that deer had really black eyes that bore holes through walls. Their odors came in through these holes. And their fleas.  They stood around in groups, hemming us indoors, making silent nodding gestures. Whenever the back screen door banged and waved, they would freeze. Then their strange and powerful hind legs would jerk around like Aunt Jill when she had one too many gin and tonics (in our mother’s scenic memory). Add to this a disproportional lawn elf, and you begin to see it through my eyes. Deer body language changed most hours, on the hour. They seemed organized in their drinking, taking turns to share the water that collect in trash can lids.

One doe set herself apart by her use of Spanish, aimed especially at Simon. He had a deep love of animals and worried a lot about those facing modern-day problems like sadness, diabetes, loss of a special connection to the land. It was no wonder he had a hard time learning languages. His operating system ran on emotion, not English, much less Spanish. Teacup—the doe with a kettle-shaped scar on her nose—bullied him with demands only he could hear. Little by little he began to spend all his time hiding in the closet with his collection of Civil War soldiers for protection. After that, he stopped being Simon.

Like a happy ending, that’s when our father came back home. He was drunk and almost ran over our mother, who wasn’t exactly sober either. The deer had gone for the night, but a raccoon managed to steal into the house. Simon observed all this from our bedroom window, his plastic vampire fangs gleaming like upside-down horns in the moonlight.

 

Arlene Ang and Valerie Fox have been collaborating on writing fiction and poems for many years, and have published work in Juked, Apiary, Thrush, MadHat Lit, New World Writing, Cordite, qarrtsiluni, Admit 2, and other journals. They’ve written a novel together, The Honeymoon Series, (as yet unpublished). They have also published a compilation, Bundles of Letters Including A, V, and Epsilon (with Texture Press). Ang lives in Spinea, Italy, and is very active in the yoga world. Fox lives in central New Jersey, U.S., halfway between New York and Philadelphia, which is convenient for her teen-aged daughter (who is, luckily, obsessed with theater).

Aurora Borealis by Erik Fuhrer

Swallow whole planets of double helixes and calculate the time it takes
to destroy an organ without quite draining all the blood from the body
Precision is key to this process so that breath is still a color we can admire
swirling in the aftermatter like the aurora borealis in a sky I will never see

If it gets to the time when the body is only a shudder
close the windows
shut the aurora borealis out
It was never here anyway
It was just an echo of light
bouncing off the body of a bluebird
who is the color of breath when it is newborn

Send the double helixes to the lab
Test for light    birdshit         an answer to the reason that the body can’t stop
becoming aurora borealis

I pray to god but it is only aurora borealis
Aurora borealis is the heart when it becomes an organ rather than a pump
Aurora borealis is your face when you see the aurora borealis
Aurora borealis is double helixes spinning genetic code

 

Erik Fuhrer is the author of Not Human Enough for the Census, forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press. His work has been published in Cleaver, BlazeVox, Softblow, and various other venues.

Iconoclast Orangutan by Adam Lock

The orangutan takes a long deep breath, looks left then right, his plate-shaped face blinking, chin raised, mouth closed. Endangered. An iconoclast.

Using a long stick, he prods a coin the color of his hair across the concrete riverbed. He tilts his head; look how the stick bends where it meets the water.

He should exercise, climb the wooden fort, or swing on the huge tire, maybe work out where they’ve hidden the fruit. He could make another nest, higher up. But what would be the point? Every day there are the same grinning faces, the same pointing fingers, the same clicking cameras.

He flexes his back, rolls his shoulders, thinks about the life and death struggle of past lives.

At night, he climbs the wall at the far end of the enclosure and takes a stroll around the zoo. One day, he’ll set them all free and they’ll march to freedom, all of them, together.

When the moon is at its highest, he knuckle-walks back to his enclosure, climbs the wall, and lies next to his mate in their nest. Revolutions take time to plan, to organize, and they can be messy, can be upsetting for everyone, for both sides.

He rests a hand on his mate’s hip. She’s warm, hazy with sleep, close to extinction. They use the rhythm method; he makes a mental note of her ovulations. Not that he needs to; there’s something in the shine of her hair, the shimmer of her fingernails, the sweetness of her breath.

A gust of wind bends the tops of trees in the forest on the other side of the enclosure. He shuffles his bulk closer to his mate. It’s inside her, life: a swirling nebulae, a nursery of stars, the Pillars of Creation reaching out light years in every direction. Shivering, warm with abstinence, with squandering, he sighs, breathing the orange hair on his mate’s shoulder one way, then the other. Tomorrow, he’ll save his species. Tomorrow, he’ll begin a revolution. For now, he’ll inhale the mammalian warmth of another, and sleep.

 

Adam Lock writes in the Midlands, UK. He recently won the TSS Summer Quarterly Flash Competition 2018 and the STORGY Flash Competition 2018. He was placed third in the Cambridge Short Story Prize 2017, and has been shortlisted twice for the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2018. He’s had stories appear in publications such as Lost Balloon, New Flash Fiction Review, Former Cactus, MoonPark Review, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Reflex, Retreat West, Fiction Pool, Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, and many others. You can find links to his stories on his website: www.adamlock.net. He’s also active on Twitter @dazedcharacter.

The Sound of Silence by Melissa Goode

Sleep only comes for me now in intervals, in dreams. Tonight, you are as thin as when we met and you are wet. You shine. I hug you—skin and bone. You are cold and smell chemical, institutional. I don’t ask how you got to be so wet.

I say, “Do you know how much I love you?”

You drop your head and smile and all I want is for you to say “yes.”

* * *

You used to call me my darling. It hit every time—hard and fast—an explosion in miniature. And I said it back to you, because we all want to own someone.

* * *

You are nowhere and everywhere.

You are the man in a bank commercial, kicking a football on a luminous green lawn with your kids. A boy and a girl, they make you laugh. You are our lab who treads softly through every room of our house looking for you. Today, I see you lying on our couch, your head on one armrest and over the other your feet hang. You sing parts of your favorite song—you pick it up and put it down again.

* * *

Hello darkness, my old friend.

* * *

In the shower, I tell myself to feel the water fall on my skin, to feel the wet, the heat. You draw me against you. Your hands sear. They start and stop. Start and stop. Your mouth opens wide and your teeth close around my shoulder. I want you to bite hard. You don’t. You don’t leave a mark.

* * *

I close my eyes—your feet are bare beside our bed and they disappear as you kneel on the floor before me.

* * *

At the cafe, you sit beside me. Your leg shakes up and down and your boot beats the floor. I reach under the table and squeeze your thigh, it’s okay it’s okay. The shaking and beating stop. I wish they would start again.

I eat the salted caramel macaroon, my favorite, and yours remains on the plate, strawberry.

* * *

You sip your coffee and hold the cup over to me.

“Do you reckon this is soy? I can’t tell.”

I smile at your voice, your low, beautiful, unbearable voice. You tip the cup towards my mouth, as if I am a child.

I take a tiny sip from the place where you did. “Yeah. It’s soy.”

You sip and say, “I can taste it now.”

“How are you?” I say, but you just shake your head.

What? What? Tell me.

* * *

“The cats were out again last night,” I say. “Screaming and hissing. I can’t handle it.”

I don’t ask—did you hear them too? I don’t want you to tell me that you didn’t hear anything, that you weren’t there.

I say, “We were never ever going to sleep in separate beds. Do you remember?”

* * *

The waiter plants the check on the table and says, “Is there someone I can call for you, ma’am?”

The couple at the neighboring table stare at me as do the other patrons. They stare and then turn away.

“No. God. I’m fine,” I say. “Can’t a woman have her coffee in peace?”

I wrap the strawberry macaroon in a paper napkin and place it in my bag with the others.

* * *

I sit in our car and I cannot turn the ignition to drive home again. I rest my head against the steering wheel and close my eyes—your feet are bare beside our bed and they disappear as you kneel on the floor before me and take hold of my hip. You keep me standing. I say, more my darling more come on come on come—

 

Melissa Goode’s work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Split Lip Magazine, Forge Literary Magazine, FRiGG, and matchbook, among others. Her story “It falls” (Jellyfish Review) was chosen by Aimee Bender for Best Small Fictions 2018 (Braddock Avenue Books). She lives in Australia. You can find her at www.melissagoode.com and on Twitter @melgoodewriter.

Call Me Judy Tonight by Kathryn Hummel

Here I am playing
Judy Garland
circa sometime
in the circus
making love to
a nail-cracked pill
as booze burns
from cut crystal.
Satin eiderdown
absorbs the spillage:
rage directed
at everyone outside
for not noticing
my beguiling tint
for not recognizing
how brilliant
my hard-won
qualities.

 

Dr. Kathryn Hummel is a writer and researcher whose diverse creative and scholarly works have been published/presented/translated/anthologized/recognized in various parts of the world. Currently, within Australia, she edits non-fiction and travel writing for Verity La. Kathryn’s 5th volume of poetry is forthcoming with Singapore’s Math Paper Press and her 6th and 7th with London’s Protex(s)t Books.

Hello There, Talk Show Host by Nicholas Grider

One reason we are blessed that Talk Show Host graces us with his slate-blue metallic sheen, the color of a luxury object that has a price but no name, is this: Talk Show Host doesn’t give a shit. Talk show host lets his electric charisma trail behind him on the ground like the filthy wedding dress of an excited bride thrilled to have been jilted, running through gravel streets singing of flames and liberty. And yet here he is, our Talk Show Host, more than willing to waste himself on us, spread thin across the world’s screens, smooth-skinned and often benevolent.

We love Talk Show Host. Talk Show Host doesn’t give a shit.

Or: Talk Show Host might actually give a shit, but how are we to know? Do we know what evils lurk in the small, green heart of Talk Show Host? Perhaps.

It takes more work hours to care for Talk Show Host’s lustrous hair gleaming under benevolent stage lights like an avenging raven or similar dark-hued bird than there are actual feathers on an actual bird bigger than an avenging raven, a bird such as a grudgeless emu.

Talk Show Host stares into the lens and asks if he were to smile a little lopsided and whisper to us that a moth is actually a form of bird, would we maybe give the idea some thought? Baby bird, Talk Show Host whispers, smiling, before slapping his long, powdery hands shut like a cartoon jail door, clap!

Talk Show Host wants you to know that love is a renewable resource but you have to pay for it anyway. Do you nestle your love behind your heart, Talk Show Host would like to know, and if not, what do you nestle behind your heart, and is it warm there, is it a place a nice young Talk Show Host may spend a long weekend tweaking his regimen?

Witness Talk Show Host’s shit-eating grin before the unsuspecting special guest accidentally speaks the secret word. What is the secret word, Talk Show Host? Why is it secret? Is it the key to a hidden door or a building full of hidden doors?

In Missouri there is a museum consisting of doorknobs that are or once were personally important to Talk Show Host. He holds a special ribbon cutting ceremony there in which he slits the ribbon down its spine so that it is thinner and seems delicate but, even still, none may enter, only glimpse or be told about the mysterious treasures of the museum in small-font sections of glossy magazines that want you to know all men probably look perfectly nice in plaid suits, not just talk show hosts and male models nursing sadnesses for so long those sadnesses no longer have a name.

Talk Show Host extends his hand toward the lens because he wants to get to know you better––is it a trap? If it is a trap, is it a good kind of trap, like service-economy capitalism? Will you tell us what good means and what it no longer means if we take you by the hand, Talk Show Host?

The different ways the Talk Show Host can smile number in the thousands and have yet to be comprehensively cataloged.

The set is deserted, the band is quiet, the stage is dark––but here is the Talk Show Host, and he wants to talk to you while your parents are in the other room pointing at translucent documents and bouncing a harsh whisper back and forth between them.

If we cannot trust you, Talk Show Host, whom may we trust? Is belief in Talk Show Host analogous to belief in God as defined by medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides, i.e. “There’s no way of knowing, so just go for it”?

Talk Show Host, what is the difference between belief and trust, and how do you part the two as neatly as your hair is parted on late afternoons five days a week while your lithe yet muscular back is turned away from the approach of night and you eat measured amounts of small, brightly-colored food items while squinting at the new kind of news we have now?

Talk Show Host will save us from the news, and from turning into our parents, and from hidden fees.

Talk Show Host doesn’t give a shit, whistles while he works, invites you to follow him to his cold, clean, many-windowed home where he may or may not massage whichever of your cold joints aches the most before gently laying you on a cold, clean marble slab so you may take a record-setting nap while Talk Show Host departs to wander impossible meadows and say convincing things about strategy to skeptical woodland creatures.

Talk Show Host, where will you go after the hour of saxophones and velvet has arrived and it is time for sleeping and dreaming and the quiet nervous knitting done by the immune systems of quiet, nervous children?

When the lens that loves you waits in the dark for your return, does it still somehow gleam and reflect you?

Talk Show Host will help us figure out whether to fear death or chaos more, and reassure us with in-jokes that death and chaos are not the same thing.

Talk Show Host shrugs and tells us terror is a mockery of awareness, and therefore comical.

Talk Show Host, it’s election season midnight once more, will you pretend to rescue us by telling us we won’t notice the difference, will you smile, will you leave silently in your dark gray suit and apple-green tie and never return? Will you be generous and leave behind for us just one of your thousands of smiles so we may always remember that sometimes stupidity is even better than sleep?

When Talk Show Host arrives at the end of his arduous journey, he will know what home is because there are some things all Talk Show Hosts must know, and knowledge is a form of grief, but we must never speak of it, not even to our pets.

We are the children of secrets, Talk Show Host, we are ambiguous birds. If you don’t give a shit, if your contract forbids it, who will teach us what a journey is and how long to linger here on the shag carpet and when, finally and with the majestic calm of a distant ocean, to go?

 

Nicholas Grider is the author of the story collection Misadventure (A Strange Object) and his work has appeared in a number of publications, including The Collagist, Conjunctions, DIAGRAM, Guernica, and most recently Midnight Breakfast, as well as X-R-A-Y and Electric Lit (under the name Simon Henry Stein).