poems

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.  

"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.

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.

3 Poems by Coco M. Keehl

PENETRALIUM PART 01

you will see this dog before you die
wet teeth crack, a bullet < bark >         before you
know / how the brain creates what the mind creates

dissociative vision & Antonio Damasio
states that  we see more than we  ( are )  
aware               I’ve been leading arrows across an alien surface

better now       tell me what’s inside
the cells your heart      < vibrating >
compact, memory, folding

paper cut the laws of physics
on oneside                 restricts the other side
( phenomenally distorted ) dreams don’t last forever

& gravity we know     is not gravity
as it knows itself, like warm gusher
jewel of eye                 a pseudo understanding

which still, is, an understanding
( to behold a beauty ) everything was  light &
everything indirect lightening

litchenberg, static, etching  in my eyelids        look     
look     how space is    a test of faith or fighting
not just < a  voice > wanting to speak about the void

a void speaking into the void
a void < wondering >how empty
possibility could be


UNDISCOVERED SUBATOMIC PARTICLES

Dark matter can’t be found
if it doesn’t exist or
god where be energy or
the physics of heat

& I rippled two black holes in & out unending infinites
            every               entropy
used to measure the rearrangement
I rearrange then
myself easier to remove
            unbreak reorder           was once
three in womb
but came in two           it did

not surprise me to learn
I was twinned.                         Here is             
my hand &      here
other palm to your shoulder
you surrender to god               
            so what

what makes you think
what makes you think
my questioning
is weakness?


WHILE EVERYTHING STILL BLOWING

across thick, the lawn
I did not understand but maybe

it was an important document
& everything you own

but first vivid image
subjected action partake-

ing apart; love your friendly alien
sitting golden going
nowhere else at all. 2 sandhill
cranes 2 family of geese & a

black bird with a bright red chest watch me
want condense word gut

rule, truth enough to believe
a bigger revelation I swear

I’m always digging deeper examining
observation: what matters, isn’t first

it’s the sparkle off the water,
the birds moving closer in.
-
Coco M. Keehl is a poet living in the forests of Michigan with her dog. She is founder of GRAVITON and a poetry editor at Barrelhouse Magazine. Recent poems are in Hobart, WOHE Lit, FIVE:2:One. Find her on twitter @cmkeehl.

 

 

3 Poems by Anthony Hagen

Cough Drop

“I never went fishing,” said the doctor. “Instead, I did homework. For my son, I have bigger plans. I’ll catch a fish for him one day.” I brought home a vial of medicinal balm. You insisted on putting bread in the refrigerator, to reduce the likelihood of infectious spores. You went for the discount toaster, so it’s still cold in the center. I could guzzle down broth in the time it takes for you to toggle the thermostat. When there was still time for it, we would take strolls down the muddy embankment, wade in the shallow region, and catch tiny minnows in our palms. Now there is nothing but cinnamon and ginger ale on ice. “There seems to be a problem with your prescription,” said the doctor on a call. “The most obstinately intellectually devoid among us have seen fit to saddle me with ill advice. Cease all ingesting of the tablets. Come to my office as soon as possible. You know my extension.” We tried to lug the couch into the parlor area, but could barely lift it up before dropping it again.


Sneeze Guard

It was the first morning of frost, and I noticed the leaves broken beneath my shoes. I was in the midst of negotiations with the CEO. “Sentimentality blooms like flowers nowadays,” he said. His office was adorned with a large oil painting of several multicolored horses on a plain. I was complimenting the décor when, without warning, he blurted, “I am no longer able to continue this conversation,” and ran out of the room. He left half a mug of black Italian dark roast coffee. It hung in the air. I was tempted to drink. It was early. You always advised me out of speaking and into listening. Your gift of that nice leather chair helped me, to such an end. Out to lunch, we could see the glistening tubs of chopped pork behind the glass. That tone you set, the one that always wakes me up, took all the germs from me. I can constrain myself with a necktie, and fall in love with my shirts, but everything flows, and flows like rain. The CEO left me an odd voicemail. “I have not yet begun to fight,” was all it said. Thanks to you, we are never wanting for the newest scents. For that, I am thankful.


Impeachment Proceedings

Frequent stops: gas hub, feeding station, rubber emporium, discount cattle outlet. Communiqués to party headquarters, screaming matches via fax machine. “I’ll murder this job before it murders me,” you said. “What do you suppose they make figs out of?” I said. We departed the fruit barn just in time for the industrial fudge squirter. “Obscene?” you said into the phone. “Of course it’s obscene. Don’t distract from the real issue at hand.” Onward to the semi-legal explosives warehouse. “I can’t look at anything colorful,” you said. “I must look away.” At the hospital, scrubbed nurses stitched my wounds while chatting about the recent banking scandal. Outside the room, doctors stared at clipboards while chatting about the latest baseball scandal. “I have my own life too, you know,” you said, perhaps into the phone. Machines next to my head beeped like flugelhorns.
-
Anthony Hagen holds an MFA from Hollins University. His writing appears in CalibanBoston Accent LitClarionBird's ThumbThe Hollins Critic, and DenimSkin. 

3 Poems by Maura Way

Slow Cooker

I left my heart in the general
pozole. I thought it would
be safe from harm. I got so
fat. Some pulling happened
while I thought about the crab's
immortality. I should be tender
by now. Silence is not peace. It is
the lack of courage in human meat.

 

Grand

Big Macs now
come in three

different sizes.
I don't want to

be a teacher. My
world can come

to an end. I'm just
documenting it. No

one cares about
superlative forms.

 

Babylon

The getaway will break me
into fourteen clay tablets. I
will have to arrange them to
create a narrative of a poppy.
Clearly prescribed life cycles
will emerge, but it will still
take a dogged wrongness to
organize a logical storyline.

Is it really releasing fear if you
step off the cliff, harnessed into
complicated belay system? I
know the trick is infallible,
but I don't believe in it. I'm
more apt to sleep on it. Only
blooms will hang overhead,
still & carabinerless legends.
-
Originally from Washington, D.C, Maura Way is a schoolteacher in North Carolina. Her poems have appeared in/on Drunken Boat, Verse, DIAGRAM, Ocean State Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Her debut book of poetry, Another Bungalow, was released by Press 53 in 2017. She has been a teacher for 20 years.

3 Poems by Darren C. Demaree

[the firepower is what you expect it to be]

i told my children the firepower is what you expect it to be and we use that firepower simply all of the time because it’s simple to use it’s simple to press buttons and blow those blue eyelids off of all of our enemies who of course have their own buttons and their own firepower that has been simplified for the witnesses who love to see a countdown they can understand hell even if there’s two keys for one death that doesn’t quite seem complicated enough and what about for a million lives regardless i taught myself and i will teach both of you exactly how to make your eyelids look blue from a distance

 

[we don’t need a reason]

i told my son we don’t need a reason to look away

 

[the poison is occasional]

     after Brenda Shaughnessy

i told my daughter the poison is occasional the bad stuff is every day but the poison is occasional the bad stuff is every day but if you’re lucky all the poison will do is change your tolerance for poison which will eventually kill you but for a while you will appear to be superhuman you will appear to the ultimate refraction of the reflection of the battle of never getting any better and that sort of narrative will flip pages like lifetimes

-

Darren C. Demaree’s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including Diode, Meridian, New Letters, Diagram, and the Colorado Review. He is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Many Full Hands Applauding Inelegantly (2016, 8th House Publishing). My seventh collection Two Towns Over was selected as the winner of the Louise Bogan Award by Trio House Press, and is scheduled to be released in March of 2018. He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology and Ovenbird Poetry. He currently lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. 

 

"The Stanford Prison Experiment, Laptop, Split over an Evening" and "Jaws, Laptop, Split Over a Meal and Some Carpentry" by Justin William Evans

The Stanford Prison Experiment, Laptop, Split over an Evening

Why not bother to understand
no one wants to be happy

and you are meat
that was afraid to rot

that's singing to itself
the same song until the song is walking
until the song hatches from its melody’s weight
and becomes marches

then the fruit of looking
or rashes
or red bulls in ochre
fading from the walls of your skull

you sink into sleep
the lake skin banks repeat
and the posture dignifies
or embarrasses
or invents dignity

let's not claim independence from anything
there's no tunnel between us
only telephones and microwaves

fill me with dry leaves
or pull me to your side by my teeth
the taste of your clay fingers
your boggy ankle somewhere else
your belly singing
like a whale
in a sea of blood

Jaws, Laptop, Split Over a Meal and Some Carpentry

My kids were on that beach too
and I’d put them out there again
I’d drown them with my own hands
if it meant I could stay their father forever

death isn’t permanent
death aint like some personal insult
give me death or give me liberty
but just for a little while
give me a deep long death

and come to me in two pieces
you and the radio mother
you and the undersea misfit
you and the missing parts

and I’ll speak softly and show no fear
drink and love
with firmness only
but with love

all black eyed monsters
are full of steaming milk
all scars and nightmares turn beautiful
that live long enough
inside one finds license plates
rubber hoses
tin cans
but no children’s limbs

so on to the radio mother’s dream
three lovers held in the palm of a wooden god
in painful yearning for the undersea misfit
the hidden giant come to paint the water red

smart fish
once he’s free we can all go home
to the sand
where we never sing
and the birds eat the turtles in their shells
-
Justin William Evans is a poet and playwright from Charlotte, NC. He has been working with and producing exclusively original theatre since 2011. Currently he is a member of the Charlotte theatre ensemble, XOXO. Past writing credits include A Tonguey Kiss for Samuel Davidson (Anam Cara Theatre Co.), Satan v. Laundry (ACTC), I Wont Hurt You (XOXO), and The 30th Annual Bernstein Family Christmas Spectacular (The Magnetic Theatre). He is former co-editor of Vanilla Sex Magazine. His poetry has been published by Five2One, Metabolism (as Valentina Tereskova), and The Peal. He frequently performs with Asheville's Poetry Cabaret, and is the creator and editor of the sound collage podcast Mystery Meat. He organizes and hosts the America's Pastime reading series, a reading of un-original poetry and fiction.

"civil engineering"/"Peine forte et dure"/"Begotten" by Blake Pipes

civil engineering

i move gravel around in my mouth
somehow under the impression
the flavor will lend order
between death knells

around me
cranes swing forth skyscrapers
          just as predicted
by the street corner
preacher

          nobody wants to have fistfights
                     anymore

so stay asleep as long as you can

the tallest men just sling papers
and forge ink replicas wrought to
choke our animals

this sunday
i shepherd the hammer through
the television set, fatigued finally
by god’s slippery slurs,
and in my hand, glass glints
like so much fish flesh

          i have wanted atonement
          ever since i was a little
          girl

my lithium-ion blood
staggers like coal clumps
into the furnace

and i thin, i thin

Peine forte et dure

The water in the fishbowl gets lower
and lower. I think about draining it,
but never do. The fish floats around
the bottom, still dead. This week, I took up
boxing in hopes of being hit in the head.
So far, no luck. Yesterday, I heard

a man clad in sandwich boards
screaming on the street for a new law
that would force every major leader
to demonstrate signs of the stigmata.

Wading through the crowds listening to
him had me late to boxing. American life
is starting to feel like one big reboot
of the witch trials where participation is
mandatory and advertising more streamlined.

News stations call for witch blood,
demand retribution from the
covens marching in the light of day.

Do you want to be the witch
or do you want to be the accuser?

I sleep in the grass tonight, wake up
come morning. No one notices the deviation
from the script. I check the mail and walk inside.
There is leftover soup in the fridge,
but I think it’s gone bad. Out the window,
the neighbors have a fire going,
preparation for another trial.

I empty the fishbowl and
put on my boots.

Begotten
     For Sleep Paralysis

I wish you would stop choking me
while I sleep, stop lingering at my
back. This morning, I found broken glass
in the bathtub and I laughed
because with a crooked eye, it looked like
those ballet dancers
with their rubbed red shoes
and fine appetite.
Remember that one we saw last summer

whose pirouettes drooped like the death
of a spinning top? This month, she washed up
dead, no spinning top. Since then,
I have disabled every decoder ring in America.
Here is a portrait of myself
when I was younger. The story of my survival bleeds
out of both nostrils—you may have heard
that I

can’t see the future anymore. Days like now
I’m skittish. I try to position my body
so nothing is touching it;
the best I can do is stand straight,
a willing sacrifice of toes.

Yesterday, I painted the walls with a substance
that will not accept light,

each swath dressed beneath a fattier swath.
I watched the swaths propagate
and pin thick layers across my artifice,
my body of hollow columns.
Tonight, the carpet digs quietly against my face
and the dead dogs come out like switchblades.

No number of windows can protect me from the sky.

They just keep howling.
-
Blake Pipes is a recent graduate of Belmont University with his sights set on screenwriting. He has been published in Drunk Monkeys and was the recipient of the 2015 Sandra Hutchins Humanities Symposium Award for Poetry. He likes Nine Inch Nails more than you do and is currently attempting to read Blake Butler's full bibliography.

"Sun Spots" and "My White Truck" by Hamzah Jhaveri

Sun Spots

Allah painted sunspots on your face.
That’s because we pray during sunset.
He loves you the most, you know?
Your scar doesn't show. Nobody will notice.
You're Allah’s special one. He gives the
hard battles to the best followers.
Don’t cry about that. A lot of people
like boys. Maybe you don’t go out enough.
You should work out more. Don’t be
so weak. Stop crying all the time.
Your sun spots will fade. Allah should
be your best friend. She’s cute,
date her. You should work out more.
Your sun spots are gone. Wear sunblock
so they’ll go away. I made you a sandwich.
Did you eat your lunch? He can’t
see your scar. Why did you even
point it out? Your sun spots are gone.
Allah gave up on you.

My White Truck

I drive a white truck so
I can look at people
and say with my eyes
yeah, I drive I white truck.

I can tell them I walk funny?
that’s odd because I
drive a white truck.

They always think he can’t be.
no way. look at how he
puckers his lips. but wait he’s
getting in a white truck.

I am the guy people
say is overcompensating.
But hey I’m just cashing in an
overdue paycheck.

Masculinity’s orgasmic.
I feed off of synthetic
testosterone.

yeah you all, you staring?
fuck you. I drive a white
truck. Toyota Tundra.

and then I turn on
“Betty Davis Eyes”
by Kim Carnes and
drive the fuck away.
-
Hamzah Jhaveri is a young, confused, Muslim poet living in Orlando, Florida. He has had works published in Leopardskin & Limes and By Any Other Name. When not writing poetry, Hamzah is running his organization Islamic Artists of Orlando, which aims at recasting the image of Islam through the showcasing of local art. (islamicartistsorlando.com)

"on leaving behind children"/"things a ghost can do, but you didn't know"/"the ghost of my vagina" by jacklyn janeksela

on leaving behind children

i watch as she tries to scrub
away the handprint of her grandson
window stained, fingerprints of a boy
she once hugged between mouthfuls of cherry tomatoes

i watch as she drips tears
handkerchief smelling of a boyhood journey
she will never witness

i watch as the handprint vapors
smudged with each pass of her elbow
reappear just as we blink our eyes, crystal

he’s here, she whispers
the cat’s hair stands on end

things a ghost can do, but you didn’t know

hike a mountain, swallow pebbles, sleep
eat dust, sneeze, tie a knot, untangle hair, send a text message
waltz, brew tea, count, cry, cradle

undress, sew a curtain, plant seeds, pee
write a poem, rewire the internet, take a shower, erase a poem

carry a box that’s too heavy
plaster a hole that’s too big

breastfeed a baby, gender not important
wear glasses, masturbate, feel

grow fingernails, drink blood, walk on water
unravel time, use chopsticks, use a knife
hum, sing, curse, whistle, gargle

spit

the ghost of my vagina

the ghost of my vagina says things like:
why him, girl, what were you thinking
him again?  he wasn’t even that good
he hurt the fuck outta me, you should’ve told him to take it easy
he was a creep, he was a dog
he was ok, he served his purpose
he was not worthy of even looking at us
he was not even worthy enough to give period blood sex to
that one needed some training, good thing we helped him out
girl, you were not even awake
girl, he was taking his sweet time
girl, that one was too big
why did you let him do that, that wasn’t cool
why did you let him inside, gross

the ghost of my vagina can be very critical
she is disappointed in many of my decisions
she cries into a hole she calls home, buries her face,
purrs like a cat from pain

the ghost of my vagina still hurts
she says i can’t be trusted, that she should be
running the show, which is true, it’s completely true

the ghost of my vagina haunts like nobody’s business
she takes the darkest seed
and tries to make it grow despite infertile soil
-
jacklyn janeksela is a wolf and a raven, a cluster of stars, & a direct descent of the divine feminine. she can be found @ Thought CatalogLuna MagazineTalking BookDumDum MagazineVisceral BrooklynAnti-Heroin ChicPublic PoolReality HandsThe Feminist WireWord For/WordPankSplit Lip; Civil Coping Mechanism anthology A Shadow Map & Outpost Rooted anthology; & elsewhere. she is in a post-punk band called the velblouds. her baby @ femalefilet. she is an energy. find her @ hermetic hare for herbal astrological readings.

"The audio files of partners I and II" and "camilla the eternally pregnant chainsmoker" by Annie Grizzle

T h e a u d i o f i l e s o f p a r t n e r s I a n d II
( i n i t a l i c s )

F e a t u r i n g ::
Mysterious partner I and the other one.

I : I do not think she is wearing underwear, no
     II : get out from under there or
I : What do you think of the couch colors?
    What do you think of the floral décor?
     II : I need you to stick your hand down the sink
                                    Baby please
I : I caught you spying on the yard line
     II : I felt the mailbox up for
I : mow time, I can’t get grass on these shoes
     II : I’m stressed
I : I need petunia
     II : baby baby
I : please
     II : baby please
I : My toothbrush has your hair
    I think I found a hair
     II :: I use your toothbrush for my
I :: Insides!
     II : for my
I :: insides,
     II : A real skin breaker this evening
          A real blue on gold lining
          I can’t hear you with the t.v on
I : Antibiotics for mother so
    Antibiotics for brother
     II : I left the dog in the van but I forgot to crack a window
                                    Baby please
I : I can’t sleep, I
     II : can’t breathe
I : I want a garage
     II : I want with pretty summer cars
I : I’m generous
     II : I play the piano
     II : I metaphorically shut door
I : how poetry won’t
     II : knock no more
I : It’s raining
     II : well, yes, [ PARTNER ONE ] there may have been dancing
I : Quick, what’s your favorite word?
     II :  pharmaceuticals

-

Camilla the eternally pregnant chain smoker ,

standing unfortunate angle inspired by the front door she’s never left in her
everything is grey her
house is grey her hair is grey her knees are grey her grass is grey
                               her / is grey / her grass is grey her knees is

some pickled steep at neighborly sweet / if she’s a bald cat she’s / a bald cat
/ stripped / head /
something crawls way up / 6 veins and a dry patch all the way up / 10 hands
painted red crème and / dug in / for fixture and old wood / if there’s a hand
at the top there’s a shoulder with the skin bunched / there’s a left hip in the
spot where she left it stuck / knuckle bones up in around the cross / stitched
/   folded   in  around  varyinglevels  of  hanging  sound   /   she  believes  in
something in / between this piece / her dehydrated meat / she’s not moving
/ she’s been there 20 years / she’s pregnant 20 years / she’s 42 she looks 47
/ everything is grey.

-

Annie Grizzle writes and eats and lived in Nashville once.