A Wrinkle in Grief by Savannah Slone

whitewater rafting in molten silence,
a blunt abstraction
to distract yourself from your own humming of
insufficient hymns
melancholy was served as an appetizer
with a dirty glass later filled with water
with mostly melted ice cubes
that day
and it didn’t matter
because how could anything matter
when you’re mending your soul
lacerations with patches of anointed amnesia
sewn tight with silver seams but the
light still invades through the slits
since you’re not very good at sewing
wounds, your flux repairs an attempt worth giving up on

 

Savannah Slone is a queer writer who is completing her M.F.A. in the Pacific Northwest. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in, or will soon appear in Heavy Feather Review, Boston Accent Lit, The Airgonaut, Ghost City Press, decomP magazinE, Maudlin House, FIVE:2:ONE, Pidgeonholes, TERSE Journal, Glass, and elsewhere. She enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and discussing intersectional feminism. You can read more of her work at http://www.savannahslonewriter.com.

as a love story by Gervanna Stephens

I think I’m dying
for my heart forgets its job
to circulate blood.
There’s a fluttering in my chest.
An incessant flapping. Maybe
my heart remembers being a butterfly. Maybe
my heart remembers itself a false start
shooting off before the trigger
stalling along the way. Maybe
my heart remembers a past life
yearning for completion. Maybe
these butterflies will choke up
my throat, scrape pink
vomit heart from chest. Maybe
my heart sputtering is only
lack of use and not failure. Maybe
the ba-dum-dum-dum of my chest is louder. Maybe?
but I still think I’m dying
loneliness a persistent suitor
visits me every morning, reminds me
the sheets are cold
no one can fit in the house of my chest
laid bare a naked flame
ready to ignite everything
but my passions are dying
which are me right?
I think I’m dying
heart failing turned jelly
feet heavy but present
persistent in their opposing move
black goes first in this game
pawns protected by king’s castle
weak held dainty
toes after polish locked
skeletal to protect this path
this need to love, my heart
forgets I was once a martyr
dying. There’s a buzzing in my chest.
An untiring humming and drumming
a ba-hum-bug of forgetting. Maybe
my heart remembers being real
feeling and breaking down like a widow
old wood and weathered rock. Maybe
my heart thinks it’s dying
love an old cracked thing
weightless and priceless
flowing and steady.

 

Gervanna Stephens is a Jamaican poet and proud Slytherin with congenital amputation living in Canada. Her work has appeared in magazines like 8 poems, TERSE. Journal, WusGood.black, Whirlwind Magazine, Enclave, 12 Point Collective, and Anti-Heroin Chic. She hates public speaking, has two sisters who are way better writers than her and thinks unicorns laugh when we say they aren’t real. Tweets @gravitystephens.

Delayed Lightning by Benjamin Niespodziany

My parents bought me a ladder after I suggested a canoe. Offered to hold the legs as I climbed up their roof. The ceiling caved in last spring, a mean tornado, and they were proud of it, kept it open, wanted me to take a family portrait from up above. Something without me to frame on the wall. Grandkids and all smiling in the rubble, looking up through the wreckage of an Oklahoma cyclone. My brother-in-law said, “If you do this for us, I’ll pay for your guitar lessons.” I shook my head. All I wanted was a lawn chair or a burlap hammock, anything to make the treeless summers less frantic. “I’ll do it for free, don’t sign me up for anything.”

* * *

Following my second guitar lesson, I tripped the pilled out musician when he invited me to the largest bar made out of chicken wire. “They call it The Phoenix,” he said, rising to his feet and wiping off his knees. After a few joints, he told me how his braids talked to him in swift whispers. “I can’t sleep.” I never saw him take a sip but he always described the size of his hangovers, told me one was bigger than a school bus engine, another “larger than a muffler.” During one of his lengthy bathroom breaks, I took his guitar case and filled it with used combs and bad poems. “I’m allergic to my car ride home,” he confessed after he swallowed gallons of water, spilled most of it on his chest. He resembled a shipwreck and I tattooed the word ‘Driftwood’ onto his lower back, apologizing to him for everything by cannonballing on his couch, a pounce that opened the floor where the rats surfaced, took over.

* * *

I’m a changed man now. More bow ties. More cheesecake. Saved and bought a kayak. I hold a telescope made out of jealous bones and shuffle cards at senior centers. Three cities over, I juggle four snoring jobs. To craft a happy ending is to sing on a green hill with a box of tissues. I twirl forgiveness, turn into sawdust, and healpatch the wounds of my enemies. It takes a typhoon to befriend a meadow sneeze. Once asleep, I examine the scabs of every oil tycoon through used microscopes stolen from a lab in Galveston. My arms are overgrown with vines and leaves but no one speaks on it. When my parents call, they say how the wind makes their skyholes scream. Sweet humid trees, I mail them palms and say to layer the roof when it rains. “Humid Trees,” my postcard scribbles again, “it’s what we’ll call the band.” That or Thunder Parade. Turn left right here. I know a camel that can show us the rest of the way.

 

Benjamin Niespodziany is a night librarian at the University of Chicago and is really bad at kayaking and playing the guitar. He runs the multimedia art blog [neonpajamas] and has had work published in Ghost City Press, Occulum, formercactus, Five2One, and a batch of others.

Eryx and Hypatius by Ray Ball

Before the stoning
before the council
condemning those who claimed
there was a time when He was not
as heretics, Hypatius
charmed a snake.
The serpent coiled in the emperor’s treasury
like a dragon guarding the royal gold.
The bishop of Gangra arrived,
wielding his staff as a weapon. Perhaps,
as the legends say,
he beat the snake, striking its mouth repeatedly, until wearied,
the giant reptile surrendered its free will
and slunk after the saint to be sacrificed at the pyre.
But perhaps,
that is only
a story we tell
ourselves
about good and evil patterned too simply to tell
wisdom from venom. The shape of the staff
matters when a holy man
comes to hook a snake, when the snake sheds
its skin in the marketplace
and winds on as if resurrected,
when something nearly extinct,
like the sand boa,
reappears.

 

Ray Ball grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and received her PhD in History from Ohio State. She is currently a history professor based in Anchorage, Alaska. When not in the classroom or the archives, she enjoys running marathons and drinking bitter beverages. She is the author of two history books and her creative work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Breadcrumbs Mag, L’Éphémère Review, and The Cabinet of Heed. She tweets @ProfessorBall.

Feral Genes by Ailey O’Toole

When I was a child, my mother
ripped out all my teeth to keep
me from destruction, hoping
to lead me away from the desire
to ravage myself. But the hunger
crawled its way through my body.
I ran right through myself, tendons
flexing with this newfound inhabitancy,
me hiding away in my own musculature.
Later, I am crumpled up in a
corner of myself, the rivers
of my blood coursing with
ruin. I was given this lovely gift,
this body, and I destroy it just
to prove I do not deserve it. I
thought I was different enough,
had separated myself enough to
not become all the things my
mother always told me I would be.
Just like her. Hunched over in
the infrastructure of my own spine,
I’m realizing that it was always
meant to happen this way. Teeth
or no teeth, the need to demolish
has been passed down to me from
womb to womb by generations of
wolf women. Hard as I try to delineate
myself from this heritage of
obliteration, this is who I was
always meant to become.

 

Ailey O’Toole is a queer poet and bartender who writes about feminism, empathy, and pain. She hopes everyone who reads her poems feels less alone in their struggle. Her work has previously appeared in The Broke Bohemian, After the Pause, Ghost City Review, Rising Phoenix Review, and others. She tweets at @ms_ocoole.

with an empathy so fatal #44 by Darren C. Demaree

the children want to be
aggressive

with their empathy
they want to hold

the rooster of each day
so they can show you

the rooster of each day
they’ve already asked

for tattoos of that rooster
on their chests

i told them if empathy
is an alarm if you think

empathy should be
an alarm then i find

no fault in you making
that permanent

the minute you’re eighteen
until then i’ll keep

buying orange to red
markers for your early

morning routine

 

Darren C. Demaree is the author of eight poetry collections, most recently “Two Towns Over,” which was selected as the winner of the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press.  He is the recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal.  He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry.  He currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.

Ashes than Dust by Iris Jamahl Dunkle

“Let go said the
What.
Let go said everything.”

–Brenda Hillman, “Split Tractate”

 

A fox sprinted across the dark driveway:
orange spark that trailed through the headlight’s spot.

You register this sighting as a totem. Then,
drive on into the life you’d written one way,
then revised due to characters disappearing.

In the nightmare. No, in the dream. (never
sure when it’s called a dream or a nightmare.

My son says it’s only a nightmare if
you wake up screaming
) there’s a dead body

being consumed by a writhing nest of
black and white snakes. They are re-writing what was lost.

When you wake you decide you would rather
be ashes than dust. You’d rather blaze out
like the fox, like a fur of sparks in the night,
than be left to rot, be untold.

By now, you thought time would have righted the swerve.
Thought your tires would have found tread. Instead,

you live in an echo chamber where owls
call and call, asking for forgiveness.

 

Iris Jamahl Dunkle was the 2017-2018 Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA. Interrupted Geographies is her third collection of poetry. It was featured as the Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection for July 2017. Her debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, was selected by Ross Gay to win the 2012 Trio Award. Her second collection, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air, was published in 2015. Her work has been published in publications including San Francisco Chronicle, Fence, Calyx, Catamaran, Poet’s Market 2013, Women’s Studies, and Chicago Quarterly Review. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is the Poetry Director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

Kitchen, West-Facing Window by Jackie Sherbow

In our morning conversations the creature
on the roof might be invisible; a ducks’ nest
hanging batlike from the ceiling;
someone and their dog as one body.
Flour dripped on potting soil makes
bread grow—thick, healthy loaves,
stalagmites in our kitchen. I ask for
twine and you bring me
a length. I tie it around the stringy
stalks I’ve just replanted. This thing
always seems to lean away
from the sun—I turn it, like
I know better. To be happy
is an effort—you know this
about me.

 

Jackie Sherbow is a writer and editor living in New York. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Moonchild Magazine, Bad Pony, Luna Luna, Day One, The Opiate, and elsewhere, and have been part of the Emotive Fruition performance series. She works as an editor for two leading mystery-fiction magazines, as well as Newtown Literary, the literary journal dedicated to the borough of Queens, NY.

German Company Says Talking Doll is Not “Espionage Device” by Martin Ott

Cayla listens to chatter perhaps a little too well.
She asks questions. Important for the kids to tell
her their toughest regrets. Eyes are not windows
to the soul. They are mirrors for secrets exposed.

No one knew Cayla was a double agent, first
for parents worried about boyfriends and the thirst
for drugs. The nights were long on the cold shelves
and the dolls decided to make up alternative selves.

Some children became dolls. Some dolls became spies.
Some spies became children. Some memories were lies.
The press release was practiced by a boy kissing the lips
of his cordial doll, his paralyzed audience, a syllepsis

from the time she, he, or they could imagine a universe
beyond the swift stares and steps; the microphone whirs
in a world where it is fine to not believe or to know.
The pieces, too, tell the assembly of how to grow.

 

A longtime resident of Los Angeles, Martin Ott has published eight books of poetry and fiction, most recently LESSONS IN CAMOUFLAGE, C&R Press, 2018. His first two poetry collections won the De Novo and Sandeen Prizes. His work has appeared in more than two hundred magazines and fifteen anthologies.

Desireé Panda and the Lee Van Cleefs by Tracy Lynne Oliver

A murder dinner for beckoning. Let’s have a grave way with phonics. Let’s tangle bright inside one another. Holding forks, holding knives.

Come out from behind my mother’s skirts. Take a bow between us. We’ll hold hands like she’s not even there. Like how she’s never been there. Be my kind. Be what I have been.

Have you versed before?

Have you come inside someone you wanted to become?

In a special way, you have visited me; an errant balloon, a dusty seascape, a scraped knee with edible scab. I have yearned to taste your footskin, too full on my own. Let’s rub each other’s heads in the dark. Let’s torture a young boy together. You go first, and then I will go first.

In a leftover summer dark where I don’t matter, you will get mud-wet with drown. I will take my feather petticoats into the depths for you. I will scoop you with my arms. I will embrace your travesty, lay you before your mother, kiss your gloated, dead mouth barfing fish.

Let’s all be horrified.

 

Tracy Lynne Oliver is attempting to make a new name for herself in this writing game. Check out her website: tracylynneoliver.com or just follow her on Twitter @T_L_OLIVER.