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.

Humanity’s Bargain with the Birds by Eric Lochridge

Red robin preening in the road,
pacing in a slight impression,

my front driver side wheel careens your way.
I see you, but I do not brake.

We have a deal, a covenant
unbreakable, perpetual as evolution.

You may stand in the street, sipping
welled rain, slurping a worm or two.

I may drive these highways
without slowing, without swerving,

sipping an americano, singing along
to a Counting Crows song of my choosing.

The terms require you to flit away, or hop,
as you prefer, before my tire might make

a bony wind chime of your head, before
I might wing you, so to speak.

I have trusted in that promise,
put my faith in our pact.

Today, old friend, what happened?

 

Eric Lochridge is the author of three chapbooks: Born-Again Death WishReal Boy Blues, and Father’s Curse. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in SlipstreamDIAGRAMMojave Heart ReviewHawaii Pacific Review, and many others, as well as anthologies such as WA 129 and Beloved on the Earth. He lives in Bellingham, Washington. Find him on Twitter @ericedits.

Lion’s Maw by Lisa Folkmire

Lion's Maw

 

Lisa Folkmire is a poet from Warren, Michigan. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts where she studied poetry. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Up the Staircase Quarterly, Atlas & Alice, Glass, Gravel, Anti-Heroin Chic, Occulum, and Timber. She is also a reader for The Masters Review.

Email to My Boyfriend When Rent Is Due by Micaela Walley

My sweet,

Remember the first time you went down on me
in your mother’s house, when I knee’d you in the chin but you still kept going?
Remember how after we got tired of touching each other, we’d go outside
to lay on your trampoline after you’d swept all the sticks and thorns
off? That black polypropylene material never felt so soft and warm
between the holes of my socks. I felt the heat rising off our bodies, blending into
the world around us as we basked in the sun, a new kind of hot.
Those were the best afternoons. I loved you the most as you’d sync
your jumps with mine, letting me go higher and higher, until I hit my head
on the edge of your roof and we laid down to take another break. I asked
you if it was bleeding and you said no. I asked you to check again, and you did,
and you still said no. I can never pay you back for things like that,
or things like this, when you take the brunt of what I can’t face alone.
I know on days like today, you forget those kids on the trampoline,
sticky with sweat and sex and a little blood. I know how often I forget
them too. Do you think they’d be proud of how far we’ve made it?
Do you think they’d let us lie down with them and stare into the sun?
I don’t think they’d even notice we were there.

All my love,

 

Micaela Walley is a graduate from the University of South Alabama. Her work can be found in Gravel, Occulum, and ENTROPY. She currently lives in Hanover, Maryland with her best friend — Chunky, the cat.

Directions by Jeffrey Yamaguchi

Can you just get on
top and also let me breathe
it’s been a long day

Slice the tomatoes
it doesn’t matter how thick
just keep all the juice

See if you can get
a forming wave and then crash
across the sequence

Just one ice cube please
let that fucker melt on down
takes away the harsh

Pay close attention
to the last very sentence
you’ll find the right words

Remember that time
we met at that hidden spot
let’s do that again

Turn out the lights
tell me that one story
will it to my dreams

 

Jeffrey Yamaguchi creates projects with words, photos and video as art explorations, as well as through his work in the publishing industry. He can be found on Twitter @jeffyamaguchi and at https://www.jeffreyyamaguchi.com. His recent publications include Vamp Cat Magazine, Nightingale & Sparrow, Failed Haiku, Naviar Haiku, Memoir Mixtapes, formercactus, and Three Drops from a Cauldron.

In All My Memories Flowers are Taking the Place of Faces by William Bortz

instead of telling you my name / I will unravel my hands from my pockets / and show you what I have lost / those little eternities know me best / they dig their eager claws into my tender belly / and call me to be hungry / I am not ready / I am a removal / I often do not believe morning when it tells me it will arrive with newness in its small mouth / like the steady light of home turning the front porch into a lighthouse / I am uncertain / so do not consider it a blade / to your throat / when I tell you that I am unsure if our eternity will outlive the others / give pain a body / and it will press your arm between your shoulder blades / until you cannot hold who you love anymore / I’ve given pain a whole country / I have tilled its fields and fed the children / until they were plump and perspiring / I fashioned crude knives from steel  / and taught them to dance with the killing thing resting patient in their teeth / something I meant to learn myself / I’ve waited and waited and waited so long and now all I know is surrendering / I am frail and bleached / now I eat only what pain gives me / and slowly / in cool, fragmented light / I am forgetting your face

 

William Bortz is a writer and editor from Des Moines, Iowa. His work has been published in Luck Magazine, 8 Poems, Folded Word, Empty Mirror, The LOVEbook, and others.

Telephone by Jill Mceldowney

I am beginning to view the body as a well

I could shout Hello, Hello into—
call it a mistake, hang up

out of alarm, because
            tell me

what you thought you were doing answering
when you’ve been dead five whole years?

And is it really you?
How have you kept alive?

What have you grown
down there in the gloom of after like salt?

Perhaps I should say mine—the body is a salt mine.

And I never call
            but you answer anyway.

Was it ever cheerful?
The sound called ringing.

Don’t talk to me,
please

don’t tell me I need you

disoriented, buried alive,
            clawing your way up from the mouth of a cave to show me

the way home
            and tell me,

            what does this even mean? Tell me to spread open my palms, cut
another deck of cards face up—

these lines arch me far
from home.

            I cannot stop from coming—

are you my fate,
my annihilating angel?

Tell me about my love line, my one day call me
bitch. I love that hands on

unmaking: making
I must impossibly bloom
forth; that tallest mountain.

            I dial the dead and you answer.

Hand me the telephone, let me receive
your ice,
your hour of starving, your nude—promise me
I will die dark haired

and still—maybe one day the dead you and I will burn
buildings together for warmth. You will

            speak to me. Tell me about me.

I want to be believed.
Believe me when I say

            it is love that calls me
            to the cruelty of this world.

 

Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook “Airs Above Ground” (Finishing Line Press) as well as “Kisses Over Babylon” (dancing girl press). She is a cofounder and editor for Madhouse Press. She is also a recent National Poetry Series Finalist. Her previously published work can be found in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Muzzle, Vinyl, Fugue, and other notable publications.