Baptism by Ahja Fox

Remember kissing those knees soiled in May?

Statues were pointing at bodies, windswept,
as we sat idle at the door of a bone church.

We cupped tomorrow in girlish hands
our intrepid hearts resin-soaked, jeweled;
reincarnated fetish priests dragging
our generation by their strange throats.

Cherry springs rotted,
                became flesh-eating children

        and I promised you an edifice
        that would split blue,
        touch Centaurus—
        a prayer closet smolder.

We ate lake seeds, tongued dirt
until those bodies         were no longer heavy.

 

Ahja Fox is a poet obsessed with bodies/body parts (specifically the throat). Her tagline is “#suicidebywriting” and her muses are dead things found among the living. Ahja can be found around Denver reading at various events and open mics or co-hosting at Art of Storytelling. She has published in online and print journals like Five:2:One, Driftwood Press, Rigorous, Moonchild Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, SWWIM, and more. She has also recently been included in the 2018 Punch Drunk Anthology. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter @aefoxx.

The Visitor, or Not Quite Flesh by Alex Smith

I never thought you existed. You were a fight
in another room, a moon landing, someone
else’s problem.
But now you’re here. Recumbent flotsam
gone sour on our sofa.

And now, it’s like you’ve been here
the whole time, crouching behind
lonely larder tins, nesting in the
plaster cracks. You make us into you
and your
not quite flesh.

I’d offer you a drink,
coffee I suppose,
but the cups are full with
blister packs.

You were in our bed this morning,
muddying the womb of the place,
warm and
heavy as a sleeping child.

You’re in the strangest places.
I know you’ve watched me in the shower, squeaked
love hearts on the frosted glass, grabbed ringside seats
at our love making, left
popcorn kernels for naked feet to tramp,
each its own
little death.

I’ve caught you in mirrors, whispering
imagined infidelities in her ear,
retuning guitars an octave low, breaking all the
major keys.

Uninvited, you leaf through
books, records, trip trap fingers delicately
dripping scorn
for still-faced ornaments, pronounce our poverty,
pick your teeth with cutlery as she cries
on vinyl floors.

Sometimes, I want to
kill you. Pitch you on your back,
push
a thumb each side of

your pitted windpipe, squeeze
the life and pulse until you
pop
gift air
incontinent
like a skin balloon.
But what’s the point?

Besides the dust, you’ve dislodged
other things,
embryos
we hoped buried.

We keep the kids out now. And other guests as you are
a shy intruder. You hide in petticoats
so they’d never know.

You’re a secret bruise, a
cuff pulled down on
red raw wrists, weak
eternal canker, the moment just before
a door
slams
shut.

We know you will never leave.

What discord then,
that we endure your tremendous
vacuum,
file your teeth
and castrate you
with acceptance.

I wonder,
if we were to
take the shards of us and
carve and mould
some other selves,
would you remember us
and come again?

 

With a foot firmly each side of the Irish Sea, Alex Smith was raised in troubled Northern Ireland during the Eighties. Educated in English and Spanish, his work has taken him to some of the most socially deprived schools in England. His stark poetry has been published in Twyckenham Notes, Tammy, Clear Water Poetry, Bonnie’s Crew, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Ink & Voices, and Coffin Bell. He edits at ABC Tales and has a collection entitled Home coming soon through Cerasus Poetry.

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.

If This Is a Death I Still Have so Much to Be Thankful For by Bailey Cohen

I’ve been so terrible
lately and so ugly too,
yet this has all so conveniently
provided reason
for my vanishing.
I start first with my left
hand, watch ash turn
into air, dispensable thing,
you were never as useful
as my right hand, which,
when it disappears, will be
much stranger and much
wiser than my left hand.
I do not yet know how this
will show itself, perhaps
as tiny miniature hands
straining their wrist-necks out
of my fingertips. Alternatively,
my right hand could be
more pruned, soaked
by the river. At this point,
the moon has only mostly
disappeared, and with it,
my left arm, up to my
shoulder. I am a miracle
of physics, balancing
effortlessly despite my
body’s fascination
with naught. It will
only cross my mind
when only my mind is left
that there must be something holier
than all this becoming
of a ghost. If this is a death,
I still have so much to be
thankful for, all of my atoms
harmonious in their surrendering.
For instance, my brother seems wholly
intact. Unable to see what is happening
beneath the surface of the water,
he sees only my floating head,
foolishly assuming there is more
to me than this. Across the bank
where we are swimming, I watch,
voicelessly, a bird leap,
then evaporate.

 

Bailey Cohen is a queer, Ecuadorian-American poet studying at NYU. He is the editor of Alegrarse Journal, a contributing writer for Frontier Poetry, and a Best of the Net nominee. Bailey’s work is forthcoming in publications such as Boulevard, Boiler Journal, and The Penn Review, and has appeared in Raleigh Review, The Shallow Ends, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and more. He loves everyone Latinx.

My Animal Life: An Autobiography in 10 Parts by Sara Barnard

1. In the beginning, Lassie. That old mongrel. But the first death is just the first death. I cried more over Jane who ended up with half her body not working. The vet handed her back in a box, so we could bury her in the garden. Guinea pig doesn’t sound serious enough for such sobs.

2. The Russian hamsters – Rachmaninoff & Shostakovich – were not a great success. I won’t say more here, but I failed them. Twice.

3. I nearly had kittens, but another girl got to them first and it was hard to forgive. Tabby was adventurous; Polly feral, scratching skin to blood.

4. The best of times was Christmas and Christmas was for donkeys. Afternoon walks through graying streets, pockets clunky with chocolate coins, pink sugar mice.

5. My brother, grown to greatness, began the Christmas Rat Walks. I leave to your imagination the river’s path, the stones, the hilarity. Thus do traditions evolve.

6. Miggy, our funny Welsh collie. We loved you, even with the bellows, crossing fields like you had no home, and we took you home to the slate-strewn hills whenever we could, but maybe you just didn’t understand our tongue.

7. Herdwicks and heifers and little lamb who made thee asked mum every Easter, as we drove past daffodil-splattered fields. I heard those words even when the lamb was bloody, abandoned by a wall.

8. Trigger, Benji, Copper, Whisper: you held us, our growing legs wrapped round you. Racing and falling. You carried the coffin painted with sunflowers through the snow when we mourned more brightly than anyone had ever mourned before.

9. Are there more? I forget. But the dogs! So many hounds that jumped in and out of things while their owners will never be remembered apart. The un-dogged were barely complete. Sam, Trixie. Holly, Hunsa, Jack, Jen, Luca, Milo, Isla, Luna. I can’t find, now, all the names, but the smells, the hairs, the wellies at the doors. Walks in woods, so now every path has something missing. Murphy. You were so loved.

10. Then came the sea and the sea-held creatures. The ocean and its furies. The plankton-full swirling. The drifters, the jumpers, the soarers. Another world of lives to never fully know. Instinct takes over. We wait out the storm.

 

Sara Barnard is from the UK, has lived in Spain and Canada, and is now based on a sailboat (currently in Central America) with her husband, child, and laptop for company. The last few years have mainly been about parenting and PhDing. She recently has had work published in Bone & Ink Press, Glass Poetry Resists, Hypertrophic LiteraryInk & Nebula, and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Up There the Mountains Burn Worse by Tom Snarsky

They tell you a story with a giant pause
in the middle: we were lost in thick mists
until somebody found us, brought us

a coat and their warm company, told us
not to worry. Then we woke up next to the
corpse of that somebody, holding an empty

vial that we don’t remember ever having
picked up, we’re terribly thirsty and there’s
no one else around who’s still alive. Cut to

after the giant pause, when even we have
fallen asleep. Now that no one’ll overhear—
not even us—go ahead and tell me that

awful secret you’re keeping from everyone,
even your lovers and your closest friends.
The curtain is still down and the house lights

are still up. So go slow. We have the whole intermission.

 

Tom Snarsky teaches mathematics at Malden High School. He lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts among stacks of books and ungraded papers with his fiancée Kristi and their two cat children, Niles and Daphne.

Little Offerings by Laurel Paige

Love happens             too easily, like my bones
came hollow. Anything
can fill them. Like my being grounded
relies on someone else             pressing

palms into my shoulders
relies on me pressing
back, thumb to hip
bone, thumb to thigh.

My nightmares used to be water-
logged. Crocodile teeth pulling
me under. Now

every night my own             teeth fall
out, little white offerings
my body makes,

so light
they’d be weightless in someone
else’s hand. And my bones beg
to be waterlogged

or stuffed with pearls, something
to make my body balanced or             brighter,
easier for someone to             love and to
weigh me down.

 

Laurel Paige is a recent graduate of the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Madison, WI where she works at a software company and gives readings at Meaderys. Her work has appeared in Firefly and is forthcoming in The Conglomerate and Semicolon Lit.

Chernobyl Fox by David Brennan

News crew. He struts up with a fearless limp, askew, his coat deranged in delicate splotches, an unfoxlike version of fox, this Emperor of Goof.

Why a limp? Let’s see a limp: a soaking rain of cesium-137. The mushrooms revel in the wet, distill the radiation in their caps. Voles, voracious mushroom consumers, make of their bodies vole-sized radiation pills the foxes love to pop. So His Majesty of Calamity recipes marrow-mush of his own bone.

The crew dispenses sandwich makings. A zone of exclusion invites concentration

Ham atop six fat white slices, gathered and fit along the long row of yellowing molars, no condiments but hey

The King of Leakage doesn’t chew nor wolf his food. He’s no longhair, no shaggy loper.

Camera zooms on his mouth: a loaf.

Horse and badger, ungulate and bird, beaver and moose, none have managed to procure such morsels

Dead power lines sag with vine, decorate. Monarch of Mutation

he turns and trots a return, sporting trophy for the reclamation of his realm.

 

David Brennan’s include If Beauty Has to Hide (Spuyten Duyvil), a collection of cross-genre work, and Murder Ballads: Exhuming the Body Buried Beneath Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (Punctum Books), a work of creative literary criticism. Poems and essays have appeared and are forthcoming in BOAAT, Timber, Always Crashing, Heavy Feather Review and elsewhere. He teaches at James Madison University in Virginia.

whole foods rotisserie chicken by Chelsea Balzer

in the car in the parking lot of the brighton whole foods I dig my unpurelled hands into the flesh of a roast chicken. the legs are tied together. I lift the thing to my face and press its burnt skin into my teeth. I am not starving. I ate four hours ago. people walk by and look away. they are nosy but not brave enough to say so. their faces do the denial dance. they are muffled under dusty shields. nothing wild can reach them and this makes them old.

I’m wearing a new watch. we say that this way we can keep time. years ago I was vegan. being loud is not always a sign of courage. I remember those friends and wonder if any have bled onto rocks since I left. I have. I don’t think it’s silly to choose that life. we are all responsible for taking stock of our harm. but what use is pacifism when loving someone well can wreak havoc on their whole life? how can we choose which things are good when showing someone their magic strips years of safety away? and isn’t this good?

we cannot not hurt. even the mercy of the world is a danger to someone. brutal is a framework. a moral made way by resistance. the worst wrong we enact is not really the pain or even the killing but the taunt that gets lodged in the body. the threat we don’t know we lived through. we lose track of the pain then the pleasure and at some point each other. if we still dance we need to know why. we hunt when we’re not even hungry. we start to believe we have time.

 

Chelsea Balzer is a writer, musician, and therapist. A current fellow with the American Psychological Association, she can be found offering therapy at YOGA NOW in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, performing as one-half of synthpop duo Vital Organs, and leading The Big Feels Lab: a series of workshops on mental health and liberation. Her debut chapbook Fruit Diaries is forthcoming.

Our love will stretch to cover this in time by Jeni De La O

There are
tests, after I
have gone. This morning it
was a last minute invite to
breakfast.

Dang. Her
pancakes are my
blueberry dreams. When I
bring in groceries I make just
one trip.

Twenty-
six bags and a
cantaloupe hang from my
forearm, digging a needless farm
of red

hot welts
I hide under
an old black cardigan.
There are essay questions on how
I can

reduce
the hard echo
built of my empty room.
I wish I could freeze us before
we strain

against
the framework of—
when I made pancakes I
always flipped the cake before time
and made

a mess;
and here I have,
again—something tender.
We ate them anyway, back then
pancakes

were still
butter-girlfriend
sweet; but now my hunger
is a sticky syrup on her
fingers.

 

Jeni De La O is an Afro-Cuban poet and storyteller living in Detroit. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Obsidian, Rigorous Magazine, Fifth Wednesday, Gigantic Sequins and others. Jeni founded Relato:Detroit, the nation’s first bilingual community storytelling event, which seeks to bridge linguistics divides through story. She is a Poetry Editor for Rockvale Review and organizes Poems in the Park, an acoustic reading series based in Detroit.