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.

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.

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.

Last Night in Antsville by Sharon Suzuki-Martinez

Overheard: “I crawled my way out of the dirt, and by God, I will crawl my way back into the dirt.”

“I never asked to be born,” was my older sister’s favorite response to our mother’s nagging. We were finishing our roadkill chicken dinner when mom brought up college again. Antoinette, my sister, stormed out to piss the evening away at the barrelhouse, as always. Her best friends, Antonia and Antigone, worked at the local venom factory, so that’s where she planned to go after high school—end of story. Sobbing, mom grabbed the dirty dishes with her mandibles and smashed them against the wall. As always, I helped clean up the mess in silence. Nobody knew I was leaving this hole tomorrow for Hollywood. Maybe forever this time.

 

Sharon Suzuki-Martinez’s first book of poetry, The Way of All Flux, won the New Rivers Press MVP Poetry Prize in 2010. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle, South Dakota Review, Duende, Dusie, Clockhouse, and elsewhere. She created The Poet’s Playlist, a music/poetry blog, but now mostly photographs and writes about little-known animals at sharonsuzukimartinez.tumblr.com/