online journal

"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.

"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 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.

"An early memory" by Steve Castro

“I remember the day I was born.”
Ray Bradbury (b. 1920-2012)

The first time I ever saw a cloud at eye level, I was ten
like the back of Pelé’s Brazil soccer jersey. I left my small
third-world-country to go visit Mickey Mouse in Florida. 
Halfway through our flight, I drank a Coca-Cola. I think it was a Coke
because we were flying on an airline owned by Howard Hughes. 
Had it been a Latin American airline, I’d probably be sitting next to a chicken,
drinking a papaya milkshake, when suddenly, one of the engines would have stopped working.

Once we arrived in Orlando, I took a picture with Donald, Mickey and Pluto. 
Those three creatures were so Nice (like the way you spell that French city)
that when I returned home, I stopped eating duck. I also stopped
feeding mice to my two cats, and I never kicked a dog ever again. 
-
Steve Castro is the co-editor of Public Pool and the assistant poetry editor at decomP. His poetry has been recently published in Green Mountains Review, The American Journal of Poetry and in two anthologies by Wings Press (San Antonio) and Tia Chucha Press (Los Angeles). He was recently interviewed by the Poetry Society of America, Midwestern Gothic and the Chicago Review of Books (forthcoming).