Anubis 1 by James Vu

I set myself a bath.

Yes, men sometimes bathe.

When I light my cigarette, Anubis appears on the toilet seat. The light in the room changes—my eyes water in insect mosaics as pitch-black paint whisks along the cracking walls.

The water jigsaw puddles in blue and white, like glass over a cotton candy sky.

Put your face under, he says.

If it was the sea, then we’ve lost so much time and have seen so little.

His laugh isn’t exactly pleasant (it somehow darkens the room and makes my blood warm), but he tells me his favorite jokes, and shows me his collection of favorite ancient and post-industrial weapons.

The best ones are the guns we’ll never get to use. Just some prototypes, he says.

Then, all the pictures of his favorite demonic women, modest and nude. Mostly platonic, he says.

Those are the women we want most.

He smiles coyly, his teeth sharper and whiter than anything you’ve ever seen.

Anubis loves cigarettes, but he only smokes with me because he’s trying to quit. He has a confession:

“I’ve built every single crypt, blinding my vision of every face. It was my end of the bargain. I just want letters from the people I have known:

What the weather is like, how quiet the whispers are when they lay in the grass, or how the wind treats their faces when they’re up in the mountains…

the smell of smoked meat in the summer, and how the sun looks and feels day-to-day. I never got a letter, but I think it’s because they don’t know what to write.

It doesn’t have to be a tome or a tomb.”

In this sea of blue and white bath water, Anubis washes away in the still-dark, a Nile of every star surrounding the scarred, sacred moon.

The moon before all the buildings, streetlights and people. The one that cared for the animals.

With my shadow further from me than before

I rinse off,  I’ll only feel clean momentarily.

 

James Vu is a languid Californian keeping Portland weird. He is a comic book author and (currently not) paying the bills with a McJob. James Vu loves you and the Lakers. He used to love opiates. James Vu is taller than you and can cook. He just had a poem published in The Pointed Circle and will have a poem published in The Bookends Review in October.

morning ritual by KJ Shepherd

we lay in bed, shirts and briefs and bare feet,
punch drunk on antihistamines and no sleep,
riffing for hours:

on your dream and whether it’s about your
mother (yes); how transparent a ghost must
be (very); whether i ever went to a private
school (never); about my alter ego’s kinks
(spit); my fur (nice); your fur (incredible);
my eye crust and your snoring (oh well);

we fall into a celebrity incantation:

ruby dee, didi conn, rae dawn chong
kiki dee, deedee king, bb king, chaka khan,
connie chung ruby dee kikideedidiconn
raedawnchongchakakhandeedeeking c c h
pounder

hello i’m shelley duvall
(i kiss you and you kiss me back)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(we sing tom’s diner at each other)
hello i’m shelley duvall
(i plant my nose under your arms)
hello i’m shelley duvall
(my cat is confused by all this)

in the shower, I list all the ways
i will mess this all up:

if I leave town too much, or not enough;
if I fuck too many other guys, or not
enough; if I began to hate my cat for
liking you more than me; if you see me
when I yell in traffic; if I say I love you
loud enough for you to hear it; if you
say tina chow stacy keech robin leach and
I have nothing to give but my eye crust

hello I’m shelley duvall
(i make you breakfast with my last eggs)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(I’ve read about dual star systems)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(you lick my nose and I lick yours back)
hello I’m shelley duvall
(we laugh under the weight of all this)

 

KJ Shepherd was a historian who became something else. They run the zine you know, i don’t know, and you can also find their poetry and other writing at Contingent, Lady Science, and Tropics of Meta. KJ lives in Austin, Texas.

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 http://www.ellenrhudy.com, or on twitter @EllenRhudy.

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.