Earth Witch by Christina Thatcher

How the dust never shakes off, even
after stripping, even after climbing
back onto the horse. How mud clumps
in the hair, smears on the cheek. How
everything is dirty, how she is always
dirty from heaving shit onto the shit
pile. How when it rains, cliff tumbles
into creek at her bidding. How she anticipates
the turning of her body into mulch
which will sink into the earth,
decompose and recompose,
and how she, then, can transform
into anything: a cottonmouth,
an oak, a man, another
girl.

 

Christina Thatcher is a Creative Writing Lecturer at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Her poetry and short stories have featured in over 50 publications including The London Magazine, Planet Magazine, And Other Poems, Acumen, The Interpreter’s House, and more. She has published two poetry collections with Parthian Books: More than you were (2017) and How to Carry Fire (2020). To learn more about Christina’s work please visit her website: christinathatcher.com or follow her on Twitter @writetoempower.

my mouth is full of words i don’t know by Monica Kim

like godingeo. full fish without the head, bones
still poking through flesh. americans like their fish
cleaned, served in bite-sized pieces you can pop
easily in your mouth, melting on your tongue and
swallowing with ease. we like the challenge
of the game: tongue working around a bone
the size of a hangnail, spitting it out onto
the plate, lifting a skeleton of bones with our hands
from the entire fish, making our own nonuniform
pieces with our chopsticks. what is godingeo
in english? i’ve never had to say it out loud
before.

before, i knew what this banchan was
in korean. now when my friend asks what
i ate for dinner the name sits on the tip of my tongue
but melts away before i can even recall
the letter in hangul. i don’t know the name
in english. americans don’t eat this type
of side dish, thin chewy strips of some squid
covered in a spicy sticky red sauce that coats
your tongue with tiny pinpricks. i can describe
it in english but i don’t know what
it is in either language.

when i eat i never ask what i’m eating. some dishes
i know, some i don’t. my mind can recall
the color and the texture and the smell and
everything else except the name. recognition
of food in my mouth but my tongue
unable to speak its name.

 

Monica Kim is a recent graduate from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English. She is published in Stirring, and has an upcoming chapbook titled “An abridged medical family history & multiverse of selves” as well as a poem from the chapbook in the Michigan Quarterly Review.

Keep Turning Over by E. Kristin Anderson

After HAIM

Here is my panic attack: I haven’t been out in days
and it’s painfully normal. So when I take my first breath

of the day I’m already trying not to feel. After all these
days inside, I have become proficient in the loneliness of

catching the sunbeam that sneaks past my blinds
and putting it back outside. I know it seems like I’m always

sleeping now, but late at night with my knees aching
I’m wide awake considering how my body will push past

the threshold of survivability. I make little promises to keep
from kissing the sickle and tonight is another night alone

in this apartment, screaming every word of “Landslide”
into the popcorn ceiling. I think I fell like a meteorite

into this timeline and I should have expected you to scatter
but I’m listening for strange angels on the roof. Dawn

approaches like a purple bruise and I’m pushing my face
into the pillow desperate for oblivion. I dream again

and again of old friends and I don’t have the energy
to harbor this anger, can’t ping enough cell towers to

triangulate all the words I’d need to say. But the dreams
are the same and I wake up wrecked. The panic of

continued existing is a swansong I carry in my pocket,
and when I shine it’s because the rain cooled me while

I stood outside watching the iron gate open and close
in a thunderstorm. Some things can’t change. I wait for

your reply with my heart cracked open at two a.m. and
in my loneliness I sip at the air I’ve kept for myself,

collect a week’s worth of mail, wash my face slowly,
press my hands against the wall as if I might find a door.

 

E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press), and her work has appeared in many magazines. She is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including 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), We’re Doing Witchcraft (Porkbelly Press) and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press). Kristin is a poetry reader at Cotton Xenomorph and an editorial assistant at Porkbelly Press. Find her on Twitter at @ek_anderson.

Diagnostic Procedures by Taylor Kirby

I say I metastasize when asked about my body
image. I do not think
of the inverted cliff

of my FUPA or how a knife
held to my neck could excise
the soft biological shape

of my family. My body
is antiseptic.
I want to contour my face

with iodine’s thirsty glow.
That three-month ache
above my hips—

must be cancer chewing
vertebrae, my back a honeycomb
of bone sweet with sick marrow.

I do not fear germs or hereditary
betrayal, that double helix calculus
of past and present: bipolar,

Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic
evangelism. I don’t mind—really—
that my 90% of my body’s 100

trillion cells are not me.
I am a density of virus, bacteria, microorganism,
and self. It is my self, not my body,

& that is at risk of calamity. I fear
being told my diagnosis
is “It’s time to fight,” because

my image of the body is not one
of trenches. It’s the way air
hollows out between car alarm cycles

& the night and I hold our breaths
waiting for something to start or to stop,
whichever comes first.

 

Taylor Kirby is a writer from Denver, Colorado. She is the managing editor of Porter House Review, and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Cream City Review, Longleaf Review, Jellyfish Review, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, and more. Most recently, she was a finalist for the 2019 Indiana Review Creative Nonfiction Prize.

dreambody by Casey Smith

My dreambody’s first incarnation could have killed me and itself,
an irony too clever for fiction: dreambody as fail-deadly,

and to think I did all that for skinny thighs and clear piss,
but no one warned me when I let my dreambody go

that it’d leave a vacuum, and now I want to aspire to be something again.
My dreambody could be anything now: could be fifty feet tall

and made of shatterproof glass.
Hey, are you awake? Be honest: if I woke up fifty feet tall, would you dump me?

I would sew a dress from sheets of kudzu,
and use red clay for cheek rouge,

and the national guard gets called in,
but all their bullets do is crackle my surface. Just by standing in the sun,

I make the city disco ball glimmer,
and people wander onto their balconies to feel the flashing heat of me.

The hitch: I would miss peach fuzz and being held and hangnails
and everything else that hiccups life’s rhythm.

I’m making a point to remember: all I have to do is stay alive,
and I could grow old enough to feel an entire thunderstorm in my kneecaps,

and that’s my dreambody now:
I want my hair to tinge silver and grow past my ass like a cape.

I want to get so brilliant, even my skin starts to look like a brain,
and I want my voice to thin and then begin to tear,

straining under the weight of everything I know now:
the best way to astral project, the best way to kiss,

and in the dream, everyone’s leaning in to listen.

 

Casey Smith is a poet from South Carolina. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Her work is published or forthcoming in Passages NorthSICK MagazineBoothperhappened mag, and others. 

Hush by Nicholas Holt

Look outside, it’s noon and the trees have hands
        and someday they’ll have bikes & knee caps
        but for now we enjoy their hard oak fingernails
        and the way they can palm the truck tire that swings

from its branch and how they shoot three pointers
        through the hoop of the yellow house across the street,
        the one where we hear the fighting, and I don’t mean
        bowls-and-plates-being-shot-by-shotguns-fighting, it’s softer,

like ducklings following a blue body across a foggy
        lake, like a gentle brook of I-can’t-take-it-anymores,
        like human blood, sloshing around in a yellow fly’s
        stomach, like shooting off a signal flare during

a fireworks show. Look outside. Their leaves are so
        shaggy and they’re playing with the squirrel curled up
        in their belly button. Hug them, this scene is so
        quiet. They’re looking right at you. Look outside.

 

Nicholas Holt has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Florida State University. He is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. His work has been featured in or is forthcoming from The Kudzu Review, The Shore, and Peatsmoke.

Learned Pig Writes a Poem by Ray Ball

For John Brooke and Ishmael Hope

The traveling circus
makes its way through the woods
where fallen leaves muffle
footsteps and the rattling of wheels,
and black flies swarm
swine and horse and man alike.

The learned pig
grunts twice and slips away
into forested freedom.
He roams alone
as much as his dad had.
His mama had once
eaten a newspaper
while she was pregnant.

Now there are no Italian fireworks
to light his way. No acrobats to leap.
No more audiences to astonish
and amaze. The sound of applause
rings in his ears then fades away.

He snuffles acorns and truffles.
He feasts in forested freedom
for an untold number of days,
but after a while he hungers
for more. He noses some twigs
into formation:

I have been
an abecedarian, fledgling
and elemental. In another life,
I might have been
Francis or Roger Bacon.

 

Ray Ball grew up in a house full of snakes. She is a history professor, a Best of the Net and Pushcart-nominated poet, and poetry editor at Coffin Bell. Her chapbook Tithe of Salt came out with Louisiana Literature Press in the spring of 2019, and she has recent publications in descant, Glass, and SWWIM Every Day. You can find her in the classroom, in the archives, or on Twitter @ProfessorBall.

To the Western Fox Snake I Watched Unhinge Its Jaw and Swallow a Mouse Whole by Kate Wright

I’m sorry I watched—jaws spread, gentle
pink interior visible, contrasted against black
rodent fur—stared as you walked your lower jaw
closer to tail, curved teeth gripping, pulling
body back. I couldn’t help it, wondered how
it feels to unhinge, swallow something
so large, the strain and squeeze of muscle
visible beneath gold and brown scale
spotted exterior. I know you’re nervous,
in a vulnerable state—hidden behind paper
half-curtain taped to glass tank for privacy,
the illusion of safety. So, I avoided eye contact
until just the tail hung from your mouth—slurped
down throat, the lump muscled, squashed,
and moving through the body.

 

Kate Wright received her BA and MA in English from Penn State and her MFA in Creative Writing and Environment from Iowa State University. This poem was inspired by her time volunteering at the Iowa Wildlife Center, where she particularly enjoyed working with the reptiles. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from in Digging Through the Fat, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Rogue Agent, Ghost City Review, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @KateWrightPoet.

What I Found Underneath Love’s Fingernails by Michael Grant Smith

I was conceived during a nominally romantic tête-à-tête in a public lavatory alongside the information superhighway. My two recollections of the occasion are a sound as of wind approaching and a chain of my ancestors receding into the dusk. A relevant detective story: when push comes to shove, stay away from cliffs. I’ve grown this big since you last saw me. Famished cats scratch at my guts and a slant of sunbeams divides my reasoning, stacks my moods, mangles my composure. Confidence-seeking missiles, aimed with creepy radar, intercept my heart — the small bullseye it is. My daily existence lacks dietetic gravity, the foundation of caloric justice. I eat food served only in pounds and ounces because I find the metric system indigestible. Sweaty walls scatter the chatter of rattling footsteps. My state of mind is aligned precisely with the room’s stainless steel fixtures, defined entirely by landscaped pictures, and maligned subsequently in briefcased scriptures. Narcissists rely on the secret handshake, “Hello, how am I?” Medication across the nation floats my boat on the shiny briny sea of glass as I cast myself into the shadow of the sail, the shade, the cool cunning hideaway whose décor must shutter the bright unkind mouse-eyed light that slices my life’s cake like paper cuts from the envelope containing the winning ticket to ride instead of driving my point home on the range of the target we attack at dawn.

 

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared in elimae, The Airgonaut, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, trampset, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. To learn too much about Michael, please visit him at www.michaelgrantsmith.com and @MGSatMGScom.