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"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.

"When You Go to Where the Bells Ring From" by Cooper Wilhelm

Other people are the lightning in our lives,
joining sky and earth, churning dirt
to glass. Now

what am I?
It’s okay to be afraid, to wave
at everything
like a leaf prepared to fall.
Death

is coming to save us
from the things we love.
-
Cooper Wilhelm is the author of three books of poetry, including DUMBHEART/STUPIDFACE (Civil Coping Mechanisms/2017). Swine Song, a chapbook of poems about pigs, comes out next month from Business Bear Press. He used to do a radio show about witchcraft. Yell at him on twitter @CooperWilhelm.

"Resent it all you want, but it's yours" by Larry Thacker

A chattering, live thing in the bottom of a yellow pill bottle that is Kentucky.

The rumored wolf tracks along the hemlock ridges leading to the limestone cliffs, filled with pools of rain and tasting of Kentucky.

Dig everything out of the old burn pit on the property. Save the old green and blue glass. The dress buttons. The unidentifiable twisted tin. The dog jaw bone. The doll arm. This is what’s left of the dreams of their Kentucky.

You can drive through the mountain’s long and deep belly into another state but something about you still smells of Kentucky. 

If it’s in regard to being in the top five of bad lists or the bottom five of good lists, then feel free to speak of your lovely Kentucky.

That rattling you hear after hitting all the potholes on the coal road when you try to go back home isn’t your muffler loosening up, it's a gravel kicking around the emptied skull of Kentucky.

It’s not just animal hoarders, some of that stench is just all the meth cooking up in Kentucky.

A church on every corner. A corner for every church. A snake for every Saturday night of the year in Kentucky.

Once the heels started flapping he peeled off the shoes a lot of people didn’t think he even had and slung them up into the pretty kudzu on the side the road while out roaming the backroads of Kentucky.
-
Larry D. Thacker’s poetry can be found in or is forthcoming in over fifty journals and magazines including The Still JournalThe Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, Silver Birch Press, Delaware Poetry Review, AvantAppal(Achia), Sick Lit Magazine, Black Napkin Press, and Appalachian Heritage. His stories can be found in past issues of The Still JournalFried Chicken and Coffee, Dime Show Review and The Emancipator. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, the poetry chapbooks Voice Hunting and Memory Train, and the forthcoming full collection, Drifting in Awe. He is presently taking his poetry/fiction MFA at West Virginia Wesleyan College. www.larrydthacker.com