tell me i’m prettier when i smile by Danielle Rose

because i do not desire to be a road pocked with potholes / but these scowls gouge the path ahead like too many pecking crows / & this is entirely a dream i can wake from if i can just find the right phrase / like i am a kiln & i become a burnt orange / the sounds stretch & yet i am still dreaming / & this stretching does not decide for me it is a lesson in constraint / like when gps coordinates turn out to be wrong / or how i want to build rhetorical arguments from childrens’ balloons / i want to watch them soar & disappear & become just another dot of clear sky / tell me i am like the sky / & lie to me / tell me i am expansive & clear / i need to hear that joyful clouds reach their hands into my chest / because i can feel them inside of me / storming / telling me i am pretty when i smile / i want to be a set of cascading conditions / like a logical proof or the way i am always sneaking away from my fear / tell me i am prettier when i smile / tell me / become a cloud & tell me that when i am pretty / it is impossible to be so empty

 

Danielle Rose lives in Massachusetts with her partner & their two cats. She is the managing editor of Dovecote Magazine & her work can be found or is forthcoming in The Shallow Ends, Barren Magazine, Luna Luna Magazine, Empty Mirror, Homology Lit, Turnpike Magazine, Kissing Dynamite & elsewhere.

Don’t worry about returning it by Devaki Devay

I’ll lose everything, eventually.
I’ll leave my phone on a restaurant table
the night before I fly out. Someday
I won’t recognize the number. Listen,
I left my notebook full of secrets under
one of the chairs in the lecture hall. Now
someone’s heels are brushing against
my newest molestation. It doesn’t bother me,
I lost my headband between the cushions
of a bus, I fell asleep chest up, once I managed
to imagine it was the Earth moving fast
and not our wheels. I’ll lose my wisdom teeth
without ever realizing; I’ll wake up
with pulsing memories of metals at my jaw,
fingers in my mouth,
blood seeping soft in cotton balls.

 

Devaki is a community college transfer at UC Berkeley studying rhetoric, as well as a reporter for the student paper. Their writing, which has appeared in Entropy and Royal Rose Magazine, centers around childhood trauma, loss, and the South Asian diaspora.

On the Dendrochronology of Gastropod-Shells by Kunjana Parashar

I like it when groups of children visit the river bank
looking for ammonites, echinoids and belemnites:
their ears like a sharp, open-mouthed whelk. To find
lexicon for the old Cretaceous worlds we originated
from, is to find a key to mapping the strange histories
of our bodies: clavicle/drumstick/femur/tendon.
My history has deep gulfs in its narratives, and often
while recounting my traumas I forget how they came
to be. Like a giant whale belly-flopping in my mind,
scattering the rings of data that dendrochronologize
my familial pain: was it the desiccated sap of my mother
that shrunk our house into a stump or was it the towering
girth of my father growing on our backs like an epiphyte.
But what I never forget is that at nights, I would watch them
slipping into that otherness of sleep: grief wrapping their
ancient-bodies like the exoskeletal shells of gastropods.

 

Kunjana Parashar is a poet from Mumbai whose work appears or is forthcoming in Lammergeier, UCity Review, Riggwelter, The Hellebore, Barren Magazine, The Rumpus (ENOUGH Section), and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter @wolfwasp.

seasonal cephalopodic self-improvement by Natasha King

in spring i’ll unfurl new growth |
exercise | learn an instrument | achieve life goals | spread my twenty-foot tentacles |
wait | what? | oh my god | why do i have tentacles |
is this | self-actualization?

i am | rolling with it | i guess in spring |
i am a squid with large moonglow eyes | and a murderous beak |
i guess in spring | i live in the abyss | with my squiddy brethren and sistren |
i guess in spring | my blood has quickened | also, it’s blue, and
copper-based | i am a little freaked out but i did say i wanted | a change

alright squids and girls | it’s spring |
and i will eat so many fish | yes | raw |
i will duel the sperm whales of the deep | i will rise at night like a spark of silver fire |
is it | the solstice already? i hadn’t noticed | i’m sorry,
but i am too busy squidding around | to have resolutions this year.

 

Natasha King’s poetry has appeared in Glintmoon, Lily Poetry Review, Oyster River Pages, and others. She lives in North Carolina and reserves her spare time for writing, prowling, and thinking about the ocean.

Tidal by Andrew Hahn

My grandmother once told me she was a mermaid,
that she had given up her life in the water for love
on land, that if I told anyone, she would crumble
into coral dust, and the waves would pull her away.
At school, I accidentally told a friend. In the cafeteria,
I cried hysterically. Now that she owns
an aging body, I feel responsible for tending
to her softening bones, these legs she learned to walk on
ache at the fins of her ankles. I want
to mark her medications in her calendar and reach
for things on top shelves, watch
reality TV and gossip about the neighbors.
Skeptics claim mermaid sightings are manatees floating
near the surface. They say a manatee’s shape
resembles a woman’s, but this is only for the shadow
of the tail undulating beneath crystal waters.
I left her to live with a man on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal.
I sit on the curb under a streetlight and watch the boys
on The Drive walk from bar to bar, sometimes
drunk, sometimes fingering the waistband
of another boy’s sequin shorts, sometimes
in the arms of whiskered, gray men who teach
their bodies opening to the past can be painful, and
whisper that sometimes leaving someone to find
a home looks like abandonment. But
the sea never leaves, instead it pulls away
just long enough for you to remember
its absence, to remind you that it’s in
your blood, to beg you to run toward it.

 

Andrew Hahn’s work has been featured in Crab Creek Review, Pithead Chapel, Rappahannock Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Yes, Poetry, among others. His chapbook God’s Boy is available from Sibling Rivalry Press.

Pro re nata Christmas by Elyse Hart

i took a pill at noon instead of nine
so an astronaut blew up in space on christmas.
a child let go of a red balloon
then my mother planted marigolds
next to begonias.

we are what we eat we are where we sleep—
a boy ate one jellybean on christmas morn’.
i took a pill at nine instead of noon.
if jingle bells is a love song then call me dasher
dancer prancer and vixen.

space landed in the garden
so my mother moonwalked to the pharmacy
with a bunch of begonias,
which exploded tinsel.
i took a pill at ten instead of two.

a balloon took hydrogen, not helium
and my head came off,
floated and blew up in space.
wassail rained out the remaining neck.
smithereens of jawbone were found in the alley
behind Rite Aid with my mother’s flowers.

i took a pill straight in the gullet.
those still with their heads
caroled as needed.

 

Elyse Hart is a poet, songwriter, and composer residing in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Nervous Breakdown with work forthcoming in The Los Angeles Press. Her first chapbook will be released by Subphonic Press in 2020. Find more of Elyse’s work on Instagram at @elysehartpoetry.

The Mechanical Bird Crafts an Email by Caroline Chavatel

The mechanical bird crafts an email
and we are surprised by its length and wit.
The store has gone dark in its after-
houred mood, so the cameras reveal
his behavior to us. The local news
has reported the unmatched intelligence
of our flocking friend, his beak hammering away
at the keys like a pianist and he makes music,
CC’s the regional manager.
It didn’t always use to be this way—
once he never dreamed of roaming
the local forests, calling out to mates
in syllables we couldn’t sound.
Last week, he almost got swallowed
into a hurricane, up into the nature
of the sky and once, before, he had no
other name. The news had stopped
reporting on him before the email,
had grown tired of his de-
mechanicalization and emergent attitude.
I’m writing to say he is worth noting.
I’m writing to let you know he is here.

 

Caroline Chavatel is the author of White Noises (GreenTower Press, 2019), which won The Laurel Review’s 2018 Midwest Chapbook Contest. Her work has appeared in Sixth Finch, AGNI Online, Gulf Coast, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cosmonaut’s Avenue, and The Journal, among others. She is editor and co-founder of Madhouse Press, and co-founding editor of The Shore. She received an MFA from New Mexico State University and is currently a PhD student at Georgia State.

Ouroboros by Gretchen Rockwell

Nature will kill you and then make new things from you.
— Welcome to Night Vale

The first time I saw the sharp silhouettes
I couldn’t fumble fast enough to capture
a photograph: Indian flying foxes, bats remembered

from a Weird ‘N Wild Creatures card collected
at ten, when I thought I wanted to be a biologist
before I realized I’d have to do science. Then I traded

that flying fox card for a Cerberus one, caring more
about the spiderweb of wonder between literary
and literal. These days I prefer nature in its un-

nerving wonders. Who needs Athena splitting Zeus’ skull
when mind-controlling jewel wasps exist, spiking into
lesser insects and hijacking them as a host for their spawn

which eat the corpse inside out and emerge fully formed?
I still have a favorite fantastical creature: the phoenix, whose nature
is self-immolation. In reality, the mechanism is rarely so static as fire,

instead often a living instrument, nature curling in on itself
in an endless wheel. The shadow of death takes the shape of wings
or fangs or the leafy fronds of a fern, unfurling. The lesson is:

nature will kill you eventually, from the inside out
or as another of its incarnations. Still, I prefer its marvels
over myth—how certain seeds can only bloom after being

burned, flowers exhaling open after forest fires, ash
still hanging thick in the air while something
new pokes through: life wriggling out through the cracks.

 

Gretchen Rockwell is a queer poet and supplemental instructor of English at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, RI. Xer work has appeared in Glass: Poets ResistKissing DynamiteNoble/Gas QtrlyFreezeRay Poetrythe minnesota review, and elsewhere. Gretchen enjoys writing poetry about gender and sexuality, history, space, and unusual connections.

The Lonely Code by Ben Kline

Select: Activity Report // unfinished / select dates // (1987; 2020) // All the times a touch felt like love / total gigabytes per dermal recoil / elasticity : hydration : squirt / [Revise summary]

Filter [smooth] for Z-A descension / (reflection) / useful file://allocation.name / (Query : Peter, where are you?) / Results vary // All the times love fell for sex

Place me between any one / every zero // Repeat into deleted completion / Destination needs no edit : [Click OK] (Are you sure you want to delete?)

(Tapping the Enter key :: nothing happens.)

Revise: Transmit into archive / (Query : Maybe through the black hole / go in (suction) go out (bang)) / Even a universe orgasms // Even a god gets lonely (Query : Were you lonely?)

Singular echo pinging to end / Click OK // Copy of [Report on The Number of Times He Touched Me and Meant It] / (Query : Peter, when did we last touch?)

(A dream? Rewound / New wound /…healed /…erased) [Error detected]

Returning from 1010 / pulled into adjacency // Disc #2404 / 101010101011111000000 // matter : energy reconstitutes all manner of spit and marrow

/ longer the touch, stronger the bruise [ERROR] when the fingertips / lift / [Error Report : He is not sure if he wants to continue.] (Will you bounce back?) (Warning : Too near the event horizon, unable to return.)

Click Save // … // Buffer against system failure // (Analysis : Momentarily I am known : (by you)) / Copied for use (/…for what use?) / Read-only / (Query : What is the absence of touch?)

Click X // (Query : Are you sure you want to lose your changes?) [Deletion complete]

 

Ben Kline lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, writing poems and telling stories, drinking more coffee than might seem wise. His chapbook SAGITTARIUS A* will be published in 2020 by Sibling Rivalry Press. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Cortland Review, DIAGRAM, My Loves: a Digital Anthology of Queer Love Poems, Theta Wave, Screen Door Review, Homology Lit, Pidgeonholes, Impossible Archetype, and many more. You can read more at benklineonline.wordpress.com