Poetry

"ontological centaur" and "i love my dad, pt. ii" by C.T. McGaha

ontological centaur

i can't help but meditate
running tongue
along chips in my teeth
till i get lie bumps
tiny red aching things
sores on the palate
that you just gotta
wait out, they say

when i was younger
i wanted to be a youth pastor
now i sell wine for a living
but none was ever water

heard a story once a man
killed a little grey wolf
on accident skipping rocks
across a frozen lake
grieved and gutted
refused to wear its pelt
paid penance with hypothermia
in somewhere's tundra

the idea of being
is much better than being
and that's just a universal constant, motherfucker

i love my dad, pt. ii

slowly rolling down windows
in the old volvo wagon
the perfume of autumn country air
lilacs and lavender and sheep shit 

the blinding brightness of sun
cast out across the lake
sneaking under the car’s visor
blasting my forehead
steaming with sweat

i cannot die, i say
i will never die, i say
aloud to no one
fingerfucking the heavy rocks 

packed in my jacket's pockets
-
C.T. McGaha is a writer from Charlotte, NC. He loves wine, pizza, and his pets. He used to like Sun Kil Moon a lot but he doesn’t as much now.

"consangui(sh)inity" and "beacon in brink" by Ty Little

consangui(sh)inity

deciduous is a haunting word
I would like to change
the definition
if only

for you,

liberation of my cunt!

in the form of organ
trans plant

take it with you and I will kiss it
goodbye for the
abscission
of
cherishing

the only way I know how
to evolve
into an internal ecosystem

my
brothers
are
hunters
for
mushrooms / completion

I
search
for
both

liberation of fungal spore!

a coming

to
an
external
cycle
of
predetermined
choice

beacon in brink

some of you are ghosts now
a different type of animal
throats expunging
ectoplasm surely wrestles against the space
between where we stand

and stood

call the cops to the front!
I want to see them shrouded
in the uptick of
their own recession
from this poet’s fingers

if old technology
was like new technology
I’d photoshop their eyes

shut
-
Ty Little is a poet/vessel. They believe all dogs and poems are sacred. Recently, they moved to Richmond, Virginia and feel a little less scared of everything. Magic is real.

Excerpt from "American Girl Doll" by Naomi Washer

America, I used to sit in my bedroom in the suburbs in high school listening to Allen Ginsberg’s “America” set to “Closing Time” by Tom Waits. I listened over and over as the music swelled and I felt an uprising in my chest, America. Do you know how lonely it is to feel an uprising in your chest in the suburbs, America? This was my poetry. It was the late 90s and the start of a new millennium—we didn’t want to hear any female voices yet, we weren’t uncovering the roots of our devastation. America, I am grown up now, cooking a 1950s recipe for Mexican Chicken, can you imagine how truly Mexican that recipe could be? America, I barely speak Spanish. America, I thought my heritage was Irish but it’s actually Scottish. America, white people in my generation don’t know a thing about their heritage but love to claim whatever could be theirs. America, I thought I was Russian-Romanian but my people are from Warsaw. We’re from a place near Loch Lomond, a place close to home. America, do you know that Poland tried to erase its devastation of its own Jews? America, I am troubled, and so are you. America, I had been in college for two months when the first black president was elected. Everyone ran drunken screaming happy through the streets. America, I used to call myself a-political, can you imagine? America, I was on a school trip in France when Bush declared war. It was the middle of the night in Paris, we were 12 year-old kids, we woke up to watch the speech on TV. France didn’t want to get involved in this mess, America. Can you blame them? It was confusing for us. We were 12 year-old kids watching our country declare war, far away from our families in America. But then we realized this meant the airports might close; we might not be able to get back home to you, America. That was confusing for us. We didn’t know how to feel about that, America. There were rumblings before we left for France. Most families didn’t let their kids go, America, but not my parents. My parents weren’t afraid, America, they wanted me to experience Real Culture, and Real Culture, America, always skirts the edge of danger. 
//
America, the whole idea of war didn’t seem like a very good idea. It wasn’t the best idea you’d ever had, America, but it is the idea you always seem most famous for.
//
America, the first bar I ever went to underage was McSorley’s. I was 18, they served only “light and dark beer,” I didn’t know which one I liked or how to order, it was Valentine’s Day in the East Village, I was sitting in McSorley’s, this formerly “Men Only” pub, do you know what that meant to me, America? To be sitting in McSorley’s when outside it was indeed New York and beautifully snowing? America, I bought my copy of A Coney Island of the Mind from a bookseller hidden in a corner of Boston. I read “I Am Waiting” sitting on a bench next to a homeless man while a white man dressed in Revolutionary garb led a tour of schoolchildren through the city. America, my favorite Girl Doll was Molly. She had long brown hair and glasses. She read books and she looked like me. My grandmother made us matching smock dresses. America, do you know how much cigarettes cost these days? Do you know there are people my age who can afford to feed themselves but never bother learning to cook? What would you say about this, America? America, I have lived in San Francisco, do you know what your children live like on those streets? Do you know how many still seek in California the American Dream? The American Dream in California is a multi-million dollar apartment with flimsy walls, America, it’s a shared front lawn the size of a stamp filled with brands of imported cactus.

America, I was born in the South and raised in New England, don’t know where I should be.
-
Naomi Washer is the author of Phantoms (dancing girl press, 2019) and the translator from the Spanish of Sebastián Jiménez Galindo’s Experimental Gardening Manual: create your own habitat in thirty-something simple steps(Toad Press, 2019). Other work has appeared in Court Green, Pithead Chapel, Asymptote, Sundog Lit, Split Lip Magazine, and other journals. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, Studio Faire and Chateau d’Orquevaux in France, and Columbia College Chicago where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction. In 2019, she was named one of 30 Writers to Watch by The Guild Literary Complex. She lives in Chicago where she is the editor and publisher of Ghost Proposal.

"Restless" and "In the Country of Uncertainty 2" by Peter Leight

Restless

I’m not pointing,

this is just the way I hold my hands with the wrists curved back when I’m not sure what I’m going to use them for.

Sometimes I go upstairs 

in order to come downstairs,

loosening my pants to get started—

I’m not even thinking about free will or the other kind that falls in your lap when you don’t even notice anything,

I believe I’m light enough to leave the ground and heavy enough to come back down,

do you see what I’m saying?

If I’m shivering

it’s only because I’m sitting still—

a standstill arrangement settles nothing,

solves nothing, 

it’s actually a shame,

are we still okay?

My friend thinks it’s better to get rid of the things you’re not happy with, 

together with the ones that aren’t happy with you

Not even hesitating,

when you hesitate people think you don’t care,

or there’s something you’re hiding— 

you’re hiding something you don’t even care about.

How do you know if it’s annoying?

I don’t even need to rest,

if my veins are swollen it’s only because there’s so much stuff in them, 

like a form of bravery—

I’m actually moving around while I’m resting, as if I’m in a different country right next to the country I’m in,

what if you don’t need to be

anywhere at all?

I know it’s selfish, as when you pick up a photo album and the first thing you look for is a picture of yourself,

if you don’t find one 

it’s a shame.

When my friend tells me to calm down

and get some rest,

I have to tell her we need to get going right now,

is it too obvious?

I think I’m light enough to lift myself up and heavy enough to do all the chores, 

as soon as I sit down 

I start moving around—

I often think there isn’t enough happiness for everybody to have some, not in the country we’re in, 

I don’t know what’s the matter with me.

The shame is what you feel 

when you can’t even explain it to yourself.

In the Country of Uncertainty 2

When you look through your hands it’s cut off at the sides, as if your eyes are biting into something,

it’s probably something you haven’t even thought of,

there are probably some things you’re not even thinking about,

when you don’t know what it is is this what they mean by secret offer?

Moving around a lot,

as if it’s only the first domino—

you often mix up the fight and flight signals,

covering your teeth

and uncovering your calves,

touching the tips of one hand to the tips of the other hand, as when you take something apart in order to be able

to put it back together.

You’re not even sure if you’re offering

or being offered—

sometimes you think you don’t understand anything,

I mean nobody understands everything.

What if you’re putting it together like one of those old maps before they knew what the countries looked like?

Before they knew about everything that happened?

Of course when something happens there’s almost always something that isn’t happening at the same time,

it’s probably something you haven’t even thought of,

probably something you’re not even thinking about—

you’re not even sure if you appreciate it

or you don’t appreciate it enough.

How is it going to be fair

when everybody needs something different?

And what about the others,

the ones you don’t know anything about?

In our own lives we’re covering our eyes with our hands,

there are so many things that are unbelievable believing you have the key is the same as letting yourself in,

the same as being inside,

as if you’re putting together a secret offer.

When you put it together it’s easier to think it belongs to you,

otherwise it wouldn’t be what it is.

When you take something apart it’s easier to imagine it belongs to you because it isn’t what it is.

There are a lot of distinctions we’re not even making,

not right now,

as if it’s one of those maps where you’re in more than one country at the same time,

or you’re in the wrong country,

or some other country—

that’s when you take your hands away from your face.
-
Peter Leight lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.  He has previously published poems in Paris Review, AGNI, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, FIELD, and other magazines.  

"It's All Around Germantown" by Keegan Cook Finberg

Rustic weathered chestnut and cream
Brownchickenbrowncow
He passed me in the intersection 
and said “hey” I returned the “hey”
and kept walking.

high volume of criminal activity
almond milk a dollar cheaper
non residents slipping in,
me, working weekends.
-
Keegan Cook Finberg is a poet and a scholar of literature. Her poetry has appeared in Sixth FinchPrelude MagazineRoveTwo Serious LadiesBone Bouquet and elsewhere. Her essays have been published in Textual Practice and Canada and Beyond, and her public scholarship has appeared in Jacket2The RumpusThe Believerand Southern Indiana Review.

"III" by Chris Caruso

III

If only by luck we stumble upon a stretch of meadow between highway fields. It is from here we shall g(r)aze and believe ourselves fulfilled with the language of others. What is the need then to present gifts of promises—a continued renewal.




This reminds me of that film, the one in the language neither of us spoke. A cartoon of two mallards in a frozen pond surround by a city. We never learned how they arrived. Perhaps an earlier story before we were born. I commented on their quacks that turned to screams. You were drawn to their fierce flapping, their feathers so much like slicks of oil. You remarked how it should have taken longer for them to die. I said it was pacing to keep the emotion real. The children disappointed re-watching; a hope that the ducks are freed, a revival of religious proportions. Through the eyes of adults, the way in which children find death is tragic.
-
Chris Caruso earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Boise State University. His poems appear in online and print journals as well as in anthologies. Originally from New Jersey he currently lives in Boise, but dreams of a small cottage with a Koi pond in Portland.

"First Dad: A Decrepit Ghazal" and "Descort for a Blank Face" by Jerrod Schwarz

First Dad: A Decrepit Ghazal

A wonderful poet could transmute a father
out of recycled cork: squeaky, wine-scented embrace.

A good poet could arrange popsicle sticks
into an ambulance shape and sacrifice the embers.

Brand new poets could at least regurgitate
a birthday cake, ferment it, and imbibe.

All I want is an email with the history
of my family’s disease emergences.

All I want is for poetry and God and my wife
and my children to not be enough.

I need to need a spell, an ancient altar
where I burn something precious for his real face:

something like my own fingers, something
like a family dog, someone like you reading this,
and something like whatever it takes

Descort for a Blank Face

About one in fifty people have aphantasia:
they cannot conjure
imagery in their minds. If you think
they operate at a deficit,
you have probably never seen
the embalmed hands
of someone who made you laugh
and cry. (only one of my fourth-grade classmates
came to the viewing, so I
tried to make her laugh before
sitting in the bathroom for an hour

and every other week Facebook suggests
I add her
as a friend but I won’t
because if she had aphantasia
I curse-cured it, a blood letting
in the curled shape of dad’s thumbs. If I
kept you from a life
of perfect knowledge, I am sorry
Stephanie.
If your brain
is a paint bucket now,
upending and clogging your spine,
I am picking dried acrylics out of my
vertebrae, too.)
-
Jerrod Schwarz teaches creative writing at the University of Tampa and STEM programs at the Glazer Children's Museum. His poetry has appeared in print/online journals such as PANK, Entropy, Opossum, The Fem, Inklette, and many more. Most recently, his erasure poetry was highlighted on New Republic and Poetry Foundation. His first chapbook was published by Rinky Dink Press in 2016. He lives in Tampa, Florida with his wife and twin daughters.

"Palm Sunday" and "Ikaria Dreaming" by Margarita Serafimova

Κυριακή των Βαΐων
(Palm Sunday)

The southern sea was storming,
a point beyond the compass.
The ground I stood on surged.

Ikaria Dreaming

I remembered how you want me.
A golden raven took off the road.
-
Margarita Serafimova was shortlisted for the Montreal Prize 2017, Summer Literary Seminars 2018 and Hammond House Prize 2018; longlisted for the Christopher Smart Prize 2019, Erbacce Prize 2018 and Red Wheelbarrow Prize 2018; nominated for Best of the Net 2018. She has three collections in Bulgarian. Her work appears in Agenda Poetry, London Grip, Waxwing, Trafika Europe, A-Minor, Poetry South, Nixes Mate, Journal, Orbis, Minor Literatures, Writing Disorder, Chronogram, Noble/ Gas, Origins, glitterMOB, etc. Visit her page here.

"Two Lions" and "Other Myself for Myself" by Delia Rainey

Two Lions

I woke up and you taped a letter to my shoelace
gold leaf painted wood. the lions appear - yellow
gaffer tape used on video sets, to make sure
the camera comes to see the same place, tied
like a scroll or biblical text found in a cave, “trying
to say thank u for being patient” & the cages of bridges
brace over the chicago river like rusty muzzles for dogs
“hey delia you fell asleep” - in my grandpa’s artifacts
on the website for judaica and holocaust and humanity
two lions were found while he sprayed for bugs, the
Jewish exterminator, in the attic of a St. Louis home.
I sit with you as you drive yourself to the airport,
the freelance gig to film something. I watch people line
up outside the medicaid office on the south side.
entering the stranger’s attic to rid the wisp of moths
I place thing-power on the brush of gold, they belonged
to a long-ago demolished synagogue,
I’m putting
your words in my pocket and I won’t share more.
we can hug and kiss goodbye outside of “departures”
like anybody does. the chicago river wobbles me
in crushed blue velvet, embroidered with pomegranate
to cover a scroll of someone’s most comforting words.
I blur through the city, corner stores with 99 cent soda
and billboards for storage spaces. I keep the blue dust
of a butterfly in my notebook and I don’t know why.
the bug flipped over and revealed its other self: orange
and dotted, sanctuary. in my response: “trying to say
thank u for being” - old factories by the water
drag my feet with paper, so I can’t tie myself
my yellow breath aligns, ancient body curls into walls
I’ll find you later, when you’re ready to come back.

Other Myself for Myself

not the color of olives in a bird’s teeth. I’ll sleep in any
pattern you give me. I just want to be without the burden
of my history for you. the gallop of words cinch the stained
glass chandelier. my tongue becomes a gray piece of pickled
fish. murmur with heavy lulls like this. the wet, thick water
below the house does not go to church and I’m so hungry,
the flesh pink ham spirals into me. not blonde or smoothed
like a gold coin. your mom brought a bag of bread crumbs
leftover from the stuffing, (it got burnt in the oven), &
we tossed the blackened shards into the manmade lake
from the porch on stilts. why are we doing this?
there is no teaching moment about my cultural
apologies, yearly drowning. there are no fish
in there. it’s getting dark. the birds are all tucked
into their wings.
-
Delia Rainey is a musician and writer from the Midwest. She is currently an MFA candidate in nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago. Her prose and poems have been recently featured in Hooligan Magazine, DIAGRAM, Peach Magazine, and many others. Ghost City Press released her mini chapbook Private Again in August 2018. She tweets often: @hellodeliaaaaa.

2 Poems by Adam Tedesco

Ø

Somehow the hot sky over everything
I stared at—

the ceiling for three hours
in hopes of reaching fever dream fluorescence,
the brush-streaked cloud of what smoked me–

small white rocks, bitter crystal of too much
time pulled out from myself
to bake the day in place
with its small song–

the menacing & hollow dart of carpenter bees
grinding dust from fence holes,
the cocksure swiping of owners as dogs spray
onto rose thorn, and the washed out
blue observer effect in the thing above itself—

is as complete in its emptiness as flaws are as sustenance
for me and my regular need for punishment, regret growing
into full-on midday sun, teasing shirts from backs beneath
heads, their strobing phosphene maps of collective dissent.

How reality’s vibrato begs a second
stare, a selfie-king of bottomless heights.

Rain, reign, reins, the whole of life
asking Is that all you’ve got, my beautiful friend?

Ø

Clouds dream the dawn
Do you: your newspaper morning
Fly them through the choking park

Shine the word and leave
the bears standing bright, bewildered
under today’s high: an astral outlet

My eyes receive transmission aboard the dream
They like to hide behind time

Get me the words in the fields
around the tower wilding
cross electrical climb

The bears dream of answering telephones
light going up, spreading stir
starry America of the pastel desert
the fantasy of power ablaze
power crusted, blowing
coming soon
choking on the velvet horizon
a dust we can reach
-
Poet and video artist Adam Tedesco is a founding editor of REALITY BEACH, a journal of new poetics. His video work has been shown at MoMA PS1 among other venues. His recent poetry, essays and interviews have appeared in Laurel Review, Prelude, Powderkeg, Fanzine, Fence, Tarpaulin Sky, and elsewhere. He is the author of several chapbooks, most recently ABLAZA (2017), and the forthcoming poetry collection Mary Oliver (Lithic Press, 2019).

"dead phillip society" and "soliloquy in the siege of sevastopol" by AJ Urquidi

dead phillip society

dread mutations melt the ur-conscience 
tableau skedaddling do not go grendel
on that good coconut my demons 

                        overcrowd the foot locker audition 
for space beside my toughest grenades 
the local mall’s games are impounded 

                        a thousand shelves collapsed upon 
a gravitational pulse what of the salesboy 
who more than once talked me out of evil 

within i’ll never guess his trade-in value 
sliming a path back through organic gardena 
                        touch toes to the count of an off clock 

never met a sexual lexicon he didn’t dislike
chastity tube slung over a shoulder
                        we should get down to bass tracks 

                        find this slippy fish i never looked 
good on this world
they’ll say i said 
brooch on a bikini model scarlet anaconda

                        for a sleeve here lies the failed decoder
they’ll scat before my tomb he lived life 
as a subreddit but in death remains a meme

soliloquy in the siege of sevastopol

when one is sure of being followed
pleasure incises veins of fear
the moth in flight somehow stomped

intention lurks in ramification’s thresher
styrofoam plate beside spillway moon
prides itself on being the better moon

where threaded ducks juke in threnody
with a zipper stuck these taut summer nights
i work snoring through revisionist tasks

to self-actualize with verve my most vivid
nightmare nothing to be done with beasts
who bite skin sisyphean fools not to finish

such nocturnal projects the pigeon in flight
still thrown below truck chassis fiberglass
forces a better climax than forged fantasies

too drawn out and dour to avoid boredom
of chore screen door can’t stop a blade
determined i pray my vacant ribcage might
-
Based in Southern California, AJ Urquidi is an ace poet and editor whose writing has been featured in Dream Pop Press, FaultlinePosit, convergence, and DUM DUM Zine. A past winner of the Gerald Locklin Writing Prize, AJ co-founded the experimental online journal indicia and edits copy for LA Review of Books and EMBER.

"Android Boy Abstains" and "Android Boy Visits the Arcade" by Derek Berry

Android Boy Abstains

In the summer, empathetic to soup cans,
I abandon tins on the bookshelf, films of scuzz
congealing above tomato bisque, cheddar broccoli.
Instead, I sneak scraps from the junkyard, stripped
from a rust-withered jalopy.

Once, on an airplane,
I slipped out the flask I had smuggled through security,
chewed its screw-top until sundered.
After I am wrestled to the aisle floor, I taste
for the first time
scotch,
taped to tongue like a memory not yet cemented.

& bedroom becomes landfill, cramped with fragments
undigested. & how to name this uninherited hunger, this new
sharpened lust?
Consider spilling brown onto the hard drive, letting it fry.
Even after the liquor corrodes my throat, metallic skin
bloomed a sick green hue, I archive moments
unremarkable enough to obliterate. What else
to delete in search of a quiet interface: passwords, bank card numbers?
Consider how torment might too be only the silent
reverberations after a high note. The holy
silence of the disconnected.
What else must we name Heaven before we become it?

Android Boy Visits the Arcade

I have climbed inside the claw crane machine in search of solace
& withered among plush clones of my yesterday-self, survived
on cotton stuffing until muscles atrophied into redemption tickets.
Bartered bones for rubber aliens I wear on fingertips &
packets of Laffy Taffy to sustain me through the winter.
They have unscrewed my head & sacrificed my skull at the altar of Skee-Ball,
self-cannibalization ritual in reverse: open mouth, spit
screws onto the psychedelic carpet,
cough myself up one scrap of tin at a time.
-
Derek Berry is the author of the forthcoming poetry chapbook Good Ghost: Alive & Intact (PRA Publishing 2018), the chapbook Skinny Dipping with Strangers (2013), and the novel Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County (PRA Publishing, 2016). Their previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOAAT Journal, Pigeonholes, Glint Journal, K’in, armoralla, Fall Lines, Rabid Oak, & elsewhere. They are the co-founder of literary non-profit The Unspoken Word. They are the editor of Good Juju Review and co-host of the creative writing podcast Contribute Your Verse.

3 Poems by Kelly Dolejsi

The Lost Jockey

He wrote rattleboned, he wrote after soup,
he wrote in his banker’s suit and turpentine
that we are capable of liking what we like,
spilling out of bed each day like chocolate milk
or pipes or lenticular clouds or madonnas
and the others, the incapables, sleeping
and not liking to sleep but also he put them
in the dainty branches, a see-through forest
of glass trees, glass squirrels, a collector’s
dream, somebody’s dream. On his horse
in his gray stripes and painted-on hat he wrote
prose to unborn granddaughters, post-scripts
to Mary the blue sea slug, Chris her brother,
every shard in the whole trampled scene.

The Commuter

Thoughts continue toward yesterday,
always giving way to sameness as gnats 
do, as newly cut blades of front lawns. 
Again, I wonder how to head home when 
home multiplies, when I scatter my wish 
on too many stars. I head home. It is night, 
and so warm I could sleep on a branch. 
I listen to steady light rain on the shell
of a wandering turtle that every few years
I return to the creek. I feel both ankles
in the familiar broken ice at the bottom, 
and hear another girl breathing next to me 
in the snow. I gallop away, sure that I’m a horse 
and that I’ll never think about this day again. 

Vigilance

Midnight, children quiet as painting
of saints in a long hallway that no one
has ever entered. Midnight, our bed
like a long gray whale, its belly pressed
like one tine of a rake into the zen garden
of the seafloor. Midnight, your hand
on my leg like a major seventh minus
the third and the fifth. Midnight, is this
what it’s like to be immortal? Thing after
indigestible thing, each one praying
silently and yet I hear them all. Midnight,
and yet day comes — I wake to see a deer
in the backyard, and I wonder how what
we grow could possibly keep him alive.
-
Kelly Dolejsi’s work has been published in many literary journals, including Cincinnati Review, North American Review, Denver Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, Broken Ribbon, The Hunger, West Texas Literary Review, Timberline Review, Junto, Gravel, Dirty Paws, The Hungry Chimera, Joey and the Black Boots, and The Disconnect. Her poem “Loyalty” was nominated for the Best of the Net, and her contribution to September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Additionally, her chapbook, That Second Starling, was published by Desert Willow Press in 2018.

3 Poems by Laura Houlberg

Red

In the shower in the cold light of morning we admire the new rust color of
your nails. Look I hold your hand up to the red tiles they’re the same. Acres
away and in the future a stag rubs the last of his velvet against the back of a
pine. I breathe fog. The deer breathes fog. The water is too hot so I turn it
down for you. Lemons continue to grow out in the front yard. They never
seem to fully mellow, flirting just past chartreuse, falling to the ground in
the middle of the night. The pain of something like water is so much less, I
would imagine, no matter how red my skin, than the pain of being exiled
from you. We could be blood brothers now, but your palms are clean, never
cut. All my private blood everywhere, without contract. The tile fogs where
your hand has been. One of my hairs finds its way to the tile and twists
itself into an antler. I feel spent and alive, cleaned red. When my house has
a tequila night I run outside barefoot to the yard pushing past the thick
confetti of dancers into the starry cold and pick an unripe lemon, cut it
slant on the counter. We bite into it, make faces. Tastes clean.

Wrestling in the Garden with Lexi

Two bodies. No sheets. Two girls. Perhaps not. Pushing on each other timed in
silence in the garden. Image borrowed from Grecian wrestlers, in summer clothes
and half shaves. They pull each other’s legs, heels, dog-like crouch and half
pounce, pin each other as dead bees on cardboard. Okay, one breath. Then — up
again. A fist in the cave of an elbow. Neck under a shoulder’s scallop. The Angel of
Victory and her sister do not watch. This is no sacrifice at their feet. The only
etiquette: avoid cruelty.

The exchange is lightning in the background, caught only as a slick brightness on
the trees. At times when one needs a rest, she splays, back on back, over the other
and stretches open, gasping into what does not regard.

MoonMoon

A moon of a moon has no formal name, so the question becomes what to call us.
Some dark dragged across a bluer dark stretched farther. Scratching at your
memory like the silver of a lottery ticket. Like the silver of a print left to develop
in a darkroom. Is this desire with the lid off? All four buttons of my jeans undone
with my boots still on, arms around your waist and then: my hand on the faucet
and then: naked together folded like a wing in the corner of the bathtub all clear
pale blue. You have this memory of abundance: lights sparkling at the edge of the
desert. It’s one of the only times I can remember where I did not have to leave the
beautiful thing. You remind me: my life in that city was one long sunny day.
Nights were suggestions to punctuate the bliss. The density of my living deepened
and lengthened time itself, like the way I used to drop a grapefruit at the market
into a bag and it would pull at the mesh. The lights at the edge: it must be how you
know how to greet me, with bags slung over my shoulder on your front step in the
evening, after eight months north at the drop-off. Now, party of people watching
through the glass as you run toward me. Collect me.
-
Laura Houlberg’s work has appeared in Michelle Tea’s Radar Productions: GLOW Queer Poetry Feature, Routledge’s International Handbook of Gender and Environment, the IPRC’s 1001 Journal, and Oregon Poetic Voices. They received an Honorable Mention for the American Academy of Poets Prize (2014) and competed nationally at the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (2012 & 2013) while studying poetry under Mary Szybist at Lewis & Clark College.

"O my God, What Am I" by Devon Balwit

A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
(Plath, “Poppies in October”)

Have twins and you are queened,
birth more, a sow,

the small sucklers’ upturned faces
muzzle-morphed.

Don’t make it look too easy—you—
tail lifted in heat,

each long schlong thrusting. Coyly,
devote a week,

a month, a year. Bemoan your delicacy,
the way you spread

legs only for God and Country. Bite
your lip so as not

to shout, coming become jouissance,
the smallest shiver.

Take the babies round singly
in a covered pram.

Maybe, then, the neighbors will lose count
and call you ordinary.
-
Devon Balwit lives scarily close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone. She is the author of the collections: We Are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/Complicated (a collaboration with Canadian collage artist Lorette C. Luzajik), and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). She also has a Flannery O'Connor-inspired chapbook, Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders Books) and a Moby-Dick inspired one,The Bow Must Bear the Brunt (Red Flag Poetry).

3 Poems by Isabel Bezerra Balée

bodies full of womxn

so many womxn
toss their bodies
across floodplains

to kneel
at the foot
of the bank

all the womxn
who died in me
can tie a knot
underwater
& paint with fire

how we live together
in one room
with one
hammock

speaking
to our deceased
in animal tongues

expressing nothing more
than a need for rest

dipsea

staring into

discrete, euclidean

rays

on the cliff

facing west -

when someone dies

strangers park their capital

on panoramic highway

faceless / defacing

the upper crown

of the oldest tree

predating

borders between

here & other -

below, perennial streams

flow through gullies,

our corneas

divide the sempervirens

a passing

embodiment

of the costal

situation

to swallow

vast blue

is an act of refusal,

a kind of lawlessness

in pillform

the tallest tree

the spectacle

i.

i’m trying to draw a face
eclipsed by a screen
& the screen is touching me
in a sexual way
there are no bodies
or masters
only an immense
accumulation
ofmuted faces.

ii.

tired of being scared
to wake up in the world,
a trader joe’s parking lot

i cry & consume
5 vegan cookies in a row

everything that was directly lived
has moved away into representation.

my body doesn’t look how it should
in the dystopian mirror

i am grotesque

my mind doesn’t sound
like language

the mechanical force
of crashing waves fracturing
the rock into increasingly
smaller fragments.

iii.

in the feed-form
i must be unconscious
of targeted advertisements -

blocking what i don’t want to see
manufactures a different version
of the same tangible world

replaced by a selection of images.

at work i’m copied in an email -
consider saying white identity
instead of white nationalism
-

i need to identify
the root cause
of fighting with strangers
but i’m lost at sea
in the panic attack
one last
torrential downpour
until i come up
like a fish
leave me alone
please come back

describe these conditions
using the most specific
terms possible

there is no being
without being-with

the only path to liberation
is revolution

iv.

browsing 41 pages
of sneakers
designed for over-pronation,
a gaslighting term
which also seeks to
exceptionalize
the body

only serves
the production.

ever since i purchased
the 32nd shoe

i’ve had a lot to say

& the heat
has made us all
incandescent:

why all this pain,
how are others
complicit?

instead of touching the screen
let the screen do the touching

i swear

it changes everything.

v.

connected or removed
from all these people
who look familiar,

is dating science
also a construct?

it’s bad
so it must be
but i forgive you.

can a person
be overwrought

or is that
reserved
for aesthetics?

i keep ruining
what i meant,

every generation
thinks it’s the last one

oblivious to all
surrounding events

we could leave
this art object

at any time

don’t think about it too much
-
Isabel Bezerra Balée was born & raised in New Orleans and has roots in Northern Brazil. Her poetry has appeared recently in Elderly, Littletell, and Anomaly! She writes in an ambiguous genre, about a multitude of subjects, at: ibalee.tumblr.com. Links to poems can also be found there. She lives in Oakland, CA.

"Snowman at 25" by Marcus Clayton

Carrot affixed to face, slowly blackened
by blizzard breath, punctuates the micro
torso rounded above white mountain hips.

The arms are forks, the eyes candied orange and red,
everything ages backwards two decades; clothes
fit loose, goose bumps deflate with warmth.

Now stand back, admire the mosaic of flakes,
feel jackboot snow shoes collapse zero degree
snow, crunch dulled like a broken xylophone

quieted by cracks—an unglued mouth
fevered for notes. Overnight, M & M eyes melt
into an orange tear drop. Sternum and hips become one.

Fork spokes disappear into wafted white
of horizon and balcony skin. Overhead, a 747
cuts through the universe—blue
as a puddle—and does not explode.
-
Marcus Clayton is an Afro-Latino writer who grew up in South Gate, CA, and holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from CSU Long Beach. He is an executive editor for Indicia Literary Journal, and teaches English Composition at Los Angeles Southwest College, Long Beach City College, and Fullerton College. Some of his published work can be seen in Tahoma Literary Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, RipRap Journal, Angel City Review, and Canyon Voices Literary Magazine among many others.

"i didn't know before but now i know it's real" by Greg Zorko

when i found out

that you buy chunks of mango

twice a day

at Trader Joe's

i was so impressed

by your ritual passion

i told you all of my theories

how we should make cash edible

in case we are hungry

and don't want to drive to the store

i build the world around you

i'm like a knock off

Steve Nicks

i remember in text messages

you used to spell it

Steve Knicks

like New York Knicks

i remember too

the eggs in the pan

the manes of all the horses

at the farm outside the city

i feel the movement of the sound around the room

but i don't hear anything

my heart is a hot corn bean bag
-
Greg Zorko was born in 1990 in Albany, New York. He is the author of Ghost in the Club (Metatron, 2016). He currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Year of the Freshwater Fish" by Leah Leinbach

There is a sentence that exists between you and I
I want to lie down with it
water is underneath, I hear it
the world's shortest ghost story exists in my body
in neon colored spit
on public display
the word discomposure
something quiet pardons remembrance
a secret falls down
you appear out of a pollen cloud
and say boo
sneak your way up into my laugh
I touch your neck
and it is the shape a neck would be
if you truly existed
regret shrieks its way off a moldy peach
an out of order sign is out of order
my only question
if you were born in the year of the freshwater fish
would you have loved it any harder?
-
Originally from Seattle, Leah Leinbach is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her work has appeared in CHEAP POP as well as in the New York and Chicago based zine Metaphorical Fruit

"no one tells you" by Annette Covrigaru

                 no one tells you
 
             that     shadows shift on concrete

                         like light on water,

that                  darkness reverberates black tides

      leading, leaning, misleading, 

                 that       to rely on these selves

                  is to have faith in illusion, 

   &             it may as well be god lying

       faceless on the sidewalk, 

                    leading, leaning, misleading.

perhaps     we'd see more

          if we hit concrete instead of

     toying with translucence. 

                 perhaps            eyes don't belong

            imbedded in cement, 

                 but       higher, closer, higher.
-
Annette Covrigaru is a gay/bigender American-Israeli writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. They were a Lambda Literary Emerging LGBTQ Voices nonfiction fellow and writer-in-residence in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in TQ Review, Stitch, Emerge, Cosmonauts Avenue and Entropy. Annette is currently completing a master’s degree in Holocaust Studies through the University of Haifa.