Manila Folder by Alejandro Ruiz del Sol

During a
very important business
meeting, I excuse myself

Excuse me They mock
I say in earnest. I walk
away – take the elevator down,

unbutton my blazer, find my
manila folder I keep hidden
behind the trash receptacle.

It contains the leaves
of my childhood. Buses
and bills. Roads and

nights. Smells of
maple syrup and bread,
chili chicken and pinesol,
clay, gasoline.

I can be a businessman and
keep this here a secret. I know

I didn’t waste my life.

 

Alejandro Ruiz del Sol is a Floridian who is thriving as an MFA candidate at New Mexico State University, where he is Assistant Poetry Editor for Puerto del Sol. He has been previously published in Barren Magazine and The Shore Poetry.

The Oxford Dodo by C. Line Beston

Used to be more than a shrunken head. The scientific specimen to crowd and measure and wonder. Bird-brain: empty skull extinct-ed by its own stupidity. Bird-brain dreams of waddling on velvet sand in a tourist’s snow globe souvenir. Wings, but can’t fly. Gorge on fallen rotten fruit.

Bird-brain has a nightmare: Tourists came on wood-ship cruises, scurvy included, no additional cost. The birds low-hanging fruit. Run but can’t hide. They took its body over the sea and stuffed it, cooked the plum-flesh in formaldehyde. And year by year muscles fall away: fruit left in the sun, on the beach. Flies drift in.

Daylight, daydream. Blue gloves take Bird-brain out, We keep it humidity-controlled here in the lab. Bird-brain imagines opening its beak, taking a small chunk of finger to taste it burst like a berry. We suspect that the bird was going extinct on its own; several travelogues support this theory.

Bird-brain hopes and dreams one beautiful, singular egg – almost soft-boiled from the sun, baking a new bird. If the academics peel back the leather fruit-skin flesh, crack the skull with the back of a spoon, a fledgling will emerge.

 

C. Line Beston grew up on the edge of the woods in northern Delaware and currently works and writes in the Pacific Northwest. Her writing has previously appeared in Smokelong Quarterly.

Mine Own Will Toledo by Niyanta Patel

6:00 pm
                In a turn of events that surprises no one,
                I am already late, and Will says,
                                It’s all good.

6:01 pm
                Curls of skin are peeling
                                off Will’s lips.

6:15 pm
                Will Toledo looks best in a Target parking lot,
                                head on his car seat
                                on his carseat head
                                on his seat resthead
                                head car on his seat
                                car headrestcar seat.

6:16 pm
                Will forgot everything
                that happened three years ago.
                Will is a name from history.
                Will is something Roman and lovely and dead,
                                something aurum, imber, aequinoctium.

6:25 pm
                Will plays me a ditty he wrote
                in a Target parking lot
                                He pulls the tiny toy drum set from under the seat,
                                tiny toy hihats jangling

6:30 pm
                I watch him lick a forgotten
                french fry off the floor.
                                Sitting in the car, in the Target parking lot,
                                just me and Will Toledo.
                He tells me he misses my midnights with me.
                He crawls into my frontal lobe.

 

Niyanta Kunal Patel is an emerging Indian-American poet and artist from Nashville, Tennessee. She currently studies neuroscience, chemistry, and creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Find her on twitter @temporalsplendr.

A Buzzfeed Quiz Tells Me What Kind of Egg I Would Be Based On My Gender Identity by Hallie Nowak

This is the story of an egg being broken. The story of an egg being beaten, the orange aftermath of loss, of shame, the bitter eggshell crack, the small white sarcophagus. This is the story of the dirty fingernails stripping the hardboiled layers of flesh, digging deep for the center, the narrative of the un-voiced, pale-yellow core somehow begging to be ensnared between dull, filed down molars, sliced by incisors. Or maybe, this is the egg’s journey down the esophagus, untouched, swallowed whole, a sexless vessel for potential, down the throat of something human or maybe not, even. Do you think about all the dead things that have entered a warm body? The ghosts that nourish us? I lie in bed in the morning and worry about the eggs I’ve eaten, the pain that steams from my pointer finger when I place it in a sharp mouth. I wake up asking for it at least three times a week. I’ll leave it up for your interpretation. When I was an infant, I was dropped headfirst onto concrete. Miles of saran wrap connecting the sycamores. Women turning up naked in the Maumee River, their bodies bruised like a supermarket peach. This is the story. Women crawling through the produce aisle. I fall asleep in the most expensive cuts of red meat. This is the closest I’ll ever be to affording it, and there are at least fifty ways to cook an egg.

 

Hallie Nowak is a poet and artist writing and residing in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is the author of Girlblooded, a poetry chapbook (The Dandelion Review, 2018). Her work can also be read in Noble/Gas Qrtrly where her poem, “A Dissected Body Speaks,” was awarded runner-up for the Birdwhistle Prize in 2018.

I’m not saying my dog has fought in a war but by Deon J. Robinson

he is a veteran of something. The underestimated musculature
of his tail, a gatekeeper’s enlarged eye, his flailing jowl, those gravedigger
eyelids. Sleeps like a capsized boat

                                                  within watching distance of the shore.
Could blacksmiths have foreseen a world where
there would be a metal to join the collars of soldiers
but also, dogs? A cavalry of wind plagues each battlefield,

                                                                                         which makes the wind
the bloodiest spectator; wind was created as an aftermath
of the first beast’s joy and it has remained ever since.
He has use for his tail; but not his eyes. He has use for open air;

                                                                                                              but not freedom.
Despite the wall-bumping, touchy weeds, accidental leaps off-curb,
and protective barking at dogs he can’t even see; he still
dredges into the trench of imitating the woundless.

                                                                                          Innocence begins here;
the bravery by which one navigates the world
like it doesn’t hold the schematics for sharpness.
Everything that tethers him to this world—

                                                                                is artificially dangerous.
Granted, that is only the way of beasts. Granted,
who’s to say we ever stopped being animals?

 

Deon Robinson is an Afro-Latino poet born and raised in Bronx, New York. He is an undergraduate at Susquehanna University, where he was the two-time recipient of the Janet C. Weis Prize for Literary Excellence. You can find his work currently or forthcoming in Glass’ Poets Resist Series, Homology Lit, Honey and Lime, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Occulum Journal, and Shade Journal, among others. Follow his misadventures and let him know what your favorite poems are on Twitter @djrthepoet.

Martin Moves In by Ellen Rhudy

It was the morning after their third date. Jenny woke with an odd heaviness on her stomach, as if someone were sitting on her. To stand she had to first roll on her side, levering herself towards the edge of the bed. A pinching at her crotch: a sheet of notebook paper rolled into a cigarette emerged, mucus stringing from one end.

Huevos coming, written in clumsy block letters she didn’t yet recognize as Martin’s. iPhone charger.

Jenny held the note a moment before laying it on the bedside table. She squatted with one hand on the mattress for balance. She bore down, imagining she could see with the pads of her fingers. This was not so different from recovering a stray tampon, she thought. She felt for a foot, for one of those damp hands that had grasped her own just the night before. Nothing emerged but another note: Nice try.

An hour later a GrubHub deliveryman arrived with an order of huevos rancheros, which Jenny ate. The next day an Amazon package addressed to a Martin Penderson, containing a phone charger and a pair of blue earbuds. Order pizza, said the note pressing into her underwear that night. Did my package come? Low batt. The block letters didn’t connect cleanly and it took her a few minutes to decipher his meaning.

You can have your package when you come out, Jenny texted. Order your own pizza. She appended a dozen dancing cat gifs and imagined his cries as his battery drained. Her back was so stiff that she felt as though her spine had been removed, knotted in two, and planted back beneath the skin.

She cancelled plans with her friends that night. Cancelled a date for the following day. Martin pummeled the inside of her stomach, his fists pressing against gleaming white marks shot across her skin. At times he settled on her bladder or pressed an elbow against her kidney; other times he went exploring, his fingers grasping for something he could never quite locate. He would come out when he was hungry enough, she thought, though a week passed with no movement.

When she’d used all but one of her vacation days she called her ex-girlfriend Sam, a doula. “Well fuck,” Sam said when Jenny opened the door to reveal her distended stomach, Martin’s elbow visible through her t-shirt. “You could try giving birth, if he were open to it,” she said as she pressed her palms on Jenny’s stomach, “but I wouldn’t if I were you.”

“You wouldn’t…?”

“It’s dangerous enough to have a baby, and he’s a full-grown man.”

Jenny stared at her stomach. She’d spent the morning laying on the hardwood floor, knees bent. She could feel her spine compressing into itself. “What about a c-section?”

A fist billowed against her stomach. Jenny watched Sam inspect its shadow. “There’s a support group for this,” she said before leaving. “Down the community center. That’s the best thing.”

That night Jenny tried to convince herself she wasn’t alone though she had not received a note in almost two days. She touched her stomach, felt the bulge of Martin’s head beneath her palm. She imagined the enveloping comfort of being inside a body that was not her own, of curling in the pliable constraints of a stranger’s womb. She inserted string cheese and slim jims as though they were tampons, then plucked free their empty wrappers with hesitating fingers. She snaked in the end of the iPhone charger and Martin pulled it like a lifeline, so fast that the square plug popped off and clattered to the floor. Jenny felt something like a bee sting, and ten minutes later her phone pinged.

I don’t like the cheese. As she stared at her phone a light began to dart across the floor, streaming from between her legs. Martin’s hands groped as though he was searching for some part of Jenny she hadn’t yet found herself. She emailed the support group leader, who wrote back, Yr body is a life-giving vessel, it is a home, you are a miraculous being. Hope 2 C U Wed at 8. She imagined this placid woman rubbing a gleaming parchment-thin stomach broken only by purple veins and the shifting contours of the body it held. On Wednesday night she jumped up and down in her living room, Martin laughing. She ran a bath and raised minor waves as she lowered herself, lay a towel across her stomach so she wouldn’t have to see his face pressing against her skin. Watching her limbs distort beneath retreating bubbles, she recalled reading that people loved water because it reminded them of their first lives.

Jenny took a deep breath and sank below the surface. Distantly she heard water splashing to the tiles. She waved her hands, stroked the smooth walls of the tub. She would have liked to turn over, to feel the rippled flowers on its floor. It must be nice, she thought, to float – to just float, and nothing more. To feel yourself held so secure. A damp bitterness would grip her when she emerged from the water to find her back still pinched, pain radiating around her left hip, feet crushed by the doubled weight of her body, but for this minute – she could have this minute. What’s the harm in her one minute, when Martin has all the rest?

 

Ellen Rhudy lives in Philadelphia, where she works as an instructional designer. Her fiction has recently appeared in The Adroit Journal, cream city review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, and Monkeybicycle. You can find her at www.ellenrhudy.com, or on twitter @EllenRhudy.

Country Song Erasures by Kit Armstrong

ARE WE THERE YET

        After Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”

When dead sleep lay down my
lost eye, until the day my mother,
happy in the nation, has fallen from somewhere,
soon as our black July feels wide, when
you’ll be your name, when you hear
the whole world raining.

 

DODGE CITY

        After Toby Keith, “Beer for My Horses”

Somebody’s somebody, a son, a
        man, to answer for the rope in a
                round street. For the people that justice boys
to Gunsmoke, a tune against singing, crime
        of the maker. Bet the saddle against horses,
                the one thing you always got hard against whiskey

 

Kit Armstrong is a lifelong denizen of the American West (Denver, Los Angeles, Boulder, and—someday—San Junipero) whose work has appeared at Hobart, Vagabond City, The Indianapolis Review, BULL: Men’s Fiction, and elsewhere. They are on Twitter and Instagram at @uraniumsweater.

Wound Study by H.E. Fisher

Wound Study

 

H.E. Fisher is a cross-genre writer, whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, Tiny Flames Press, The Rumpus, The Hopper, JMWW, Hip Mama, and Centennial Media’s Inside the Female Mind issue, among others. She is the 2019 recipient of The Stark Poetry Prize in Memory of Raymond Patterson, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Barren Press Poetry Contest. Helene is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at City College of New York. She currently lives in Rockland County, NY.

At the Airport Kiosk by Benjamin Niespodziany

I sell dolls
dressed like flight
attendants and fighter pilots.

One doll is made of moon
light, another designed like
a pocket watch, another a horse.

I spend my lunch
breaks watching lovers pull apart
arms, bracelets, braids of hair.

My boss coughs jet
fuel, flirts with workers selling
souvenirs. A mug, a can of chowder.

Mothers wrap daughters
in strings of pink balloons so as to not
lose them before the gate.

Everyone wants to feel
secure before curving
through the sky.

I hold up a doll, my favorite
doll, the one that looks
like a crash landing.

The doll looks like everyone
is safe but the plane
is in flames.

With this doll, the slide
has to be used. Everyone
wants to use the slide.

It’s the most expensive doll
we offer and everyone
asks its price.

 

Benjamin Niespodziany works in a library in Chicago and runs the multimedia art blog [neonpajamas]. He has had work published in Paper Darts, Cheap Pop, Fairy Tale Review, and, ahem, Okay Donkey last year.

John, Your Beard by Cyndie Randall

for John Blase

I lock eyes with it when I need more breath,
more earth, more wood for my fire.
I cheer for it.
Stretch your legs! I say.
Grow new but be familiar.
Your beard, heart papoose.
Your beard is a boy fishing on a dock.
Why your words come out like two friends on a bench.
Caramel in the oven and the whole house waits.

Do you remember the hatchling’s story?
How he stumbled from thing to thing, asking,
Are You My Mother?
Your beard would have carried him home.

Salt and pepper constellation blazing,
it bears witness to age and to sprawl,
to the days you hike lavish foothills and
hold daughters in the glory of the sun.
Your beard is The Prodigal’s party –
its smile, a stretched out CELEBRATE sign.
That beard is a museum
of blood and sweat and tears,
a collector of time.

It tightens for toddler kisses.
Shatters the lock on my spirit.
Pulls one finger through air to say,
C’mere, you darling girl.
I am the baby bird.
Five years old again.
(I would’ve asked for a father.)

You should know, beloved man,
if ever I find you on the Colorado trail,
I will offer my hands in thanks.
Betcha they’ll land on your blanketed face.
Betcha they’ll pat pat pat my question.

John, your beard will know just how to answer.

 

Cyndie Randall holds a B.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry and an M.A. in Counseling. Her words have appeared or are forthcoming in Love’s Executive Order, Kissing Dynamite, Ghost City Review, Yes Poetry, Boston Accent Lit, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere. Cyndie works as a therapist and lives among the Great Lakes. Find her on Twitter @CyndieRandall or at cyndierandall.com.