THIS IS A STORY ABOUT SETTING FIRE TO A GRAVEYARD – Patricia McCrystal

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Image: Paweł Czerwiński

Someone set fire to the graveyard this morning. It wasn’t like anything you’ve ever seen. I didn’t get emotional when I saw it, unlike the blue hairs who stopped their Buicks on the side of 44th, genuflecting and crying and clutching the crosses around their necks. I pulled my truck over and got out just as sirens started up out east. I expected it to smell bad, like maybe the bodies and coffins would start burning too, but it just smelled like a campfire. I loved that smell. Especially with ribbons of raw venison skewered over top, blood and fat dripping into the heart of the pit. A thermos of whiskey in one hand and your old man leaning back in the chair adjacent, rolling smokes slow and careful like he’s got all the time in the world.

The fire felt right. Like cleansing the clutter that’s grown so slowly you don’t even notice until you can see it in the corners of your eyes when you try to relax. I’m not saying I did it, or that I even know who did. I’m just saying it didn’t strike me as an evil deed. I wish it could have been that easy when we gutted dad’s house and piled everything on the lawn for the estate sale. Just haul out that saggy blue couch and old tube TV and rip up the baby puke carpet and douse it all with a healthy dose of Boy Scout water and light it up. Howdy, Mrs. Johnson! Come on out from behind those curtains and bring some marshmallows! Dad would have wanted it that way, I bet. 

Maybe an angel started the fire as a favor to the overused land. Fire brings up fresh grass and stronger trees. Maybe Michael the Archangel snuck down here with a can of lighter fluid. Maybe he knows that graveyards are a vanity that were never God’s wanting. Boy was that fire something. 

Whoever did it knew what they were doing. When firemen started spraying water all over, I considered how much gasoline it would have taken to make sure those flames burned as fast and hot as they did. We’ve had a wet spring, so it wouldn’t have been easy. Then again, whoever did it could have gotten creative and sided with the three S’s — sodium chlorate crystals, sugar, and sulfuric acid. I sniffed the air. It was hard to say.

An old woman put her hand on my shoulder and asked if I had a relative in the graveyard on account of me watching for so long. Yes, I told her. She waited for more. Then her wrinkled face puckered up like a dog’s asshole and she went back to crying and saying over and over again Lord have mercy. I wanted to tell her, he does. Look straight ahead.

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Patricia McCrystal is the recent recipient of the Slippery Elm Prose Prize and the founder of VIRAGO, a womxn’s writing circle. Her work can be found on PBS and in Heavy Feather Review, South Broadway Ghost Society, Birdy Magazine, and more. She’s pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Regis University.

Dog Sons – Terri Witek

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I ask my sons about dogs. Today, dogs in paintings: why a dark tail curls out beneath the monk’s robe as he strangles a dog. My sons don’t eyeroll, even the living one. They look at me the way dogs do, wet and directly.

My live son asks what’s inside a dog and my dead son says shit. No one nods because we’re now in a sculpture room. The dog’s pelt grabs little spaces. Maybe he’s a going-to-sea-dog: his nails scratch at a saint’s knees, shellish pelt wrinkling. My dead son asks for a spear and I say no violence. I lift an apple again or a pomegranate but it doesn’t go anywhere because stones aren’t hungry.

Outside in the city someone’s posed between wings –this time blue for the endangered scrub jay. They’ve stopped in the kitsch, shoulder-high thin spot. My live son says this is stupid but he’d do it for his child. My dead son says well that’s it for the bloodline. I stitch blue to each boy whenever the paint flecks.

Little mouths in a river tingle or twitch. Back in the origin myth I nearly fall down the same step. Someone asks why even go to term with an accident/ stormstrike/ deathray/ baby, but it’s always too soon to ask art.

I ask my dead son if he’s feral now. Because even cities get lost, even a toddler saint’s head except for one lone stone curl caught in St. Isabel’s dress. My live son knows about cutting because he’s needed transfusions. My dead son knows other things. Someone with a nosebleed leaves 6 votive kleenex.

The devil asks why he wants to be loved by boot on his belly or hand on his neck so much. Moonfaced and sad as he chokes? Call flat dog. Gut-wrenched around another stone boot? Try tide-coming-in dog. My sons hang “gone fishing” signs though one’s really out scoring weed. What’s up, asks a stair. This is the elimination round, scrub jays, so whistle whistle into the last blue city.


terri_0792Terri Witek is the author of 6 books of poems, most recently The Rape Kit, winner of the 2017 Slope Editions Prize judgedby Dawn Lundy Martin. Her poetry often traces the breakages between words and images, and has been included in American Poetry Review, Lana Turner, Poetry, Slate, Poesia Visual, Versal, and many other journals and anthologies. She has collaborated with Brazilian visual artist Cyriaco Lopes (cyriacolopes.com) since 2005–their works together include museum and gallery shows, performance and site-specific projects featured internationally in Valencia, New York, Seoul, Miami, Lisbon, and Rio de Janeiro.  Collaborations with digital artist Matt Roberts (mattroberts.com) use augmented reality technology for smart phones to poetically map cities and have been featured in Manizales (Colombia), Glasgow, Vancouver, Lisbon, Miami, Santa Fe and Orlando. Witek directs Stetson’s undergraduate creative program and with Lopes teaches Poetry in the Expanded Field in Stetson University’s low-residency MFA of the Americas.   terriwitek.com

two prose poems – howie good

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

Bad Dream Coma

Your teeth are falling out. You’ve lost your car. A flood is bearing down on you. You’re being chased through dimly lit streets, and though you repeatedly look back, you can’t even see who is chasing you. You’re trying to scream for help. You’re out of breath. What is inside you is going to come out: your dog’s dead body on a blanket on the floor. Your walls and curtains are covered in chemical formulas. You have no idea at all what you’re supposed to say next. You raise your hand for paper and are given a slice of bread.

Song for Ancient Children

I wake up from an afternoon nap on the couch to the thunderclaps of the younger generation chanting, “Fuck the clown! Where’s my clock?” The place is very much alive. It’s like an archipelago whose volcanic islands rise and fall with the waves. I try to believe we’ll be OK, that no one gets forgotten simply for having scant hair or wearing mom jeans, but I can’t. We see buildings toppling backwards into fire, broken leg bones refusing to heal, shadows crawling out of the ground. Our memories whisper and pulsate. There aren’t even parking spaces big enough for them.


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Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the journals Unbroken and UnLost.

Cover Art: Hans Eiskonen

 

 

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ghost ghazal in prose after the marriage – nathan elias

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

Before I went, loving you was the best part of my life. There you are, emerald eyes, in each memory when I reflect upon my life. You couldn’t see me as I hovered near you while you wept on the couch, thumbing through the box of photos that represents but a fraction of my life. I tried to speak your name and was amazed when the sound was a bird’s chirp. You stood up, went to the window, and momentarily forgot my life. In this realm of transparency and emptiness, we cling to fleeting moments. We dance throughout history, for time is not linear in the afterlife. I wanted to see your birth; I wanted, regrettably, to see your death. I wanted to drift through the detritus that creates a composite of your life: New York. Florida. Australia. California. Coordinates that, on the other side, do not exist. In the city of angels, and through your eyes, emerald, I can see the best parts of my life. In circumnavigating the remainder of your days without me, I’ve come to understand the art of moving on and letting go, even though I could not master this art during my life. And this is why I must now transcend. Evaporate. Disintegrate at the sound of you whispering, “Nathan, my love, I will see you when I go, but until then I must live my life.”


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Nathan Elias is a finalist for The Saturday Evening Post’s 2020 Great American Fiction Contest. He is the author of the chapbooks Glass City Blues: Poems and A Myriad of Roads That Lead to Here: A Novelette. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, where he served as editor on the literary journal Lunch Ticket. More of Nathan’s writing can be found in Entropy, PANK, Hobart, and many other publications. www.Nathan-Elias.com | @_NathanElias

Cover Art: Jack Anstey

real turkey supper – summer j. hart

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

The shadow wore Gucci.

She picked out his last suit from the stash he kept in the trunk of the Lincoln Continental GT, the one with the keypad lock. She could tap the code in her sleep.

She leaned against the kitchen island, poured Chardonnay, & waited for the meds to kick in.

After the funeral, she started cutting the suits into tiny identical squares, the way she diced tomatoes, stacking them into neat piles in the closets & under the beds.

He hovered by the dishwasher.

The tubes, oxygen, wheelchair, morphine had all become necessary evils in the end—the four fucking horsemen, he had joked, coughing & taking another drag.

This form cut a confident silhouette.

Stay awhile, I guess, how does that song go? He floated under the artificial daylight to an empty chair & held out his hand.

A constellation of tiny, jagged stars twinkled in the swirling dark of his palm. Cubic Zirconia, she thought, as they clattered onto the blonde oak table.

His sleeve began to unravel, his hand to dissipate. She wished she could see his eyes, his tell, but the darkness was fading now, sinking into the linoleum.

The Sunday after he died, she stole letters off the church marquee because what did they actually know of ghosts, holy or otherwise?

She slapped them down on the table like she was dealing: REAL TURKEY SUPPER
His silent laughter rattled the silverware.

She contemplated the empty bottle—squinted her eyes at it until it wavered & split into two. The suit had uncoiled itself into a single tangled thread, his body an inkblot on the tiles.

She pulled out leftovers from the fridge.

Cigarette smoke & unfamiliar perfume clung to the air between them.

Some things even death can’t change.

She stepped over what remained, to the microwave, & hit reheat setting 1. She stared at the slow spinning plate, counting the clunks made with each rotation.

Maybe they were diamonds this time.


SJHARTphotoSummer J. Hart is an interdisciplinary artist from Maine, living in the Hudson Valley, New York. Her written and visual narratives are influenced by folklore, superstition, divination, and forgotten territories reclaimed by nature. Her poetry appears in Northern New England Review, vol 39 & Third Point Press, Issue 14. Her mixed-media installations have been featured in galleries including Pen + Brush, NYC, Gitana Rosa Gallery at Paterson Art Factory, Paterson, NJ, & LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, LA. She is a member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation. WEBSITE | INLIQUID SITE

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Best of 2019

South Broadway Ghost Society’s favorite pieces of 2019.

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Hungry Ghosts :: Chris Moore

“Hungry Ghosts” by Chris Moore defies being put in any box of genre. Ranging from poetry to storytelling to essay to letters, Moore’s piece is maybe best described as the field notes of a breakup.

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Ten Macros From ‘The Depressed Barbie Series’ :: Alexandra Naughton

Alexandra Naughton’s meme collection range a series of borderline shower thoughts that you didn’t know you needed to hear until you read them. 

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Three Poems :: Sam Pink

In less than 100 words overall, these three poems by Sam Pink find insight in strangely mundane places, leaving you per his instruction, in his cartoon.

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Five Poems :: Lana Bella

These five poems, stationed as days of the week, show a dark sense of intimacy with captured moments.

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On Bones :: Shelby Yaffe

This poem paints a beautiful story in three parts, all of which revolve around something very dear to us, bones.

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Challenger :: Corwin Moore

“In eighth grade I became an addict,” begins Moore’s story, “I was addicted to masturbating and porno.” This beautiful memoir-esque piece goes on to explore childhood, shame and racism and other themes all alongside the story of the Challenger spacecraft.

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The Washing Machine Sang :: Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

Cannarella’s “The Washing Machine Sang” is an incredibly piece about playing pretend in other people’s lives and the stories of inanimate objects.

Related: South Broadway Ghost Society: 2018 in Review

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for jay who didn’t get cable television until he was thirteen and also thinks i’m petty – jane-rebecca cannarella

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For Jay who didn’t get cable television until he was thirteen and also thinks I’m petty: And how I made fun of how he first experienced the joy that comes with cable like placing snow melt between tart teeth and getting the phantom taste of salt from the sky–or from some truck, more likely–but it’s cool because it’s good anyway. It’s the propulsion of quickly falling ice crystals and thunder from the sky that now lives inside him.

Anyone can be part of the earth’s outer atmosphere, and this is the closest to becoming a cosmic being that Jay’s ever been. And he and I are acting like those two stars in our galaxy who have begun behaving strangely: a cool giant and a relatively hot white dwarf—a stellar corpse. Outbursts of energy like when he couldn’t stay seated and was asked to sit in the corner during middle school because he was being disruptive. Now we’re both warm movement and icy at the same time and are filled with the need to rattle the desktop as the universe cycles through us. And with images being spoon-fed through eyeballs for so many years, it’s like he’s growing and cooling at the same time. Maybe I am, too.

There is the terror of so many choices, like the fear of being in the middle of the crosswalk when an ambulance is coming, silenced and stricken, and how do you run to safety when your feet are stuck to the black top? With every fuzzy sound augmented and amplified, as animated figures grow and lean—continually expanding, cable television is communicating with the divided sky and directly into every and any TV watcher, but him especially.

Jay could and can sit and watch the bleary movements and he knew, and knows, that the universe keeps growing; and when he was just thirteen he had eaten Christmas-in-July-snowflakes: the light changing across wavelengths, both astronaut and astronomer and he got cable and because of that parts of him lives in solar systems light-years away waiting to fall back to earth.


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Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. She edits HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. Most recently she is the author of the flash fiction collection Better Bones and the poetry chapbook Marrow, through Thirty West Publishing, 2019. She is haunted by ghosts, all of which she believes are barnacled ships. 

Top Photo: Sven Scheuermeier

mental regurgitation – juliet cook

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I was terrified of leeches when I was a girl. I was walking home from school with a boy who pointed at a hole in the ground and told me that bloodsuckers lived inside holes. When I got home, I asked my mom what a bloodsucker was. She informed me bloodsuckers were mutant worms that stuck themselves to your skin and sucked your blood and could not be pulled out with your fingers. She said the only way to get them out was to burn them.

I was extremely squeamish about blood and hellfire, and so the idea of having a big misshapen worm penetrating my flesh and swallowing my blood seemed like a horror movie scene. I saw myself fainting and falling down into a continually sucked pool of my own blood while burning in hell.

In my late teens, I found out about medicinal leeches.  When they had no idea how to treat hysterical females, they would insert the leeches into women’s vaginas, in an attempt to alleviate their mental disorders by having blood sucked out of their female parts.

Sometimes my memory exaggerates things, but I’m telling you what I remember. The bloodsucking leeches are stuck inside women’s vaginas. They are almost impossible to pull out.  Maybe that’s what it means to be a woman. Maybe you can’t control what’s stuck inside you and it will keep sucking and sucking and sucking the life out of you.

How in the hell would they remove a leech from a woman’s vagina? By sticking a cigarette inside her?  By inserting a gloved set of fingers  to probe and pry? Are there special medicinal instruments for extracting the leeches? Or for secretly inserting one inside of a woman forever?

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In my adult life, I still hate the gynecologist. I still worry about what might be inside me. But I’m not as squeamish about blood as I used to be. After all, menstrual blood clots have been blobbing themselves out of my vagina every month for close to 30 years, so I’m pretty used to internal blood baths.

If a leech attached itself to my body now, I think I’d be able to handle it and even take a series of photos, watching it suck enough blood until it fell off me. As a little girl, I had no idea they could ever get enough blood and fall off on their own. As a teenager, I had to investigate everything unusual on my own.

I found out that trying to remove a leech by burning is one of the least effective forms of removal, because not only does that maim or kill the leech, it also has much more potential to injure you. Even if the fire makes the leech fall off, first that injured leech will vomit the sucked blood out of its body and into your body. That bloody vomit will enter your wound.

Then the violent infection of your own wound will work its way into your womb and you will keep growing more and more infected leeches and popping them out of your vagina like a hideous infestation of babies shaped like giant worms or tiny malformed blood sucking penises.

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Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

Photo: Erol Ahmed

sad stories of the death of kings – howie good

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I ask a friend if she can remember the last time that the stars and moon hatched from a golden egg. She doesn’t answer straightaway, just tucks a stray comma of hair back behind her ear. Because it’s one in the morning, the darkness outside is more like a solid than a liquid or a gas. I’m suddenly really tired of struggling to stay awake. The answer comes later, when I read in the paper that they sliced open a dead whale that had washed ashore and found in its belly plastic cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and two flip-flops.


Howie Good is the author of The Titanic Sails at Dawn (Alien Buddha Press, 2019)

Photo: Edu Lauton

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self-portrait as ghost with dementia – nathan elias

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Nathan Elias is the author of the chapbooks A Myriad of Roads That Lead to Here: A Novelette and Glass City Blues: Poems. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Antioch University Los Angeles, and he has served as editor on the literary journal Lunch Ticket. His work has appeared in Entropy, PANK, Hobart, Barnstorm, and elsewhere. His films and screenplays have been official selections or finalists in festivals such as Cannes Court Métrage, Glass City Film Festival, Canadian Film Centre, Texas Independent Film Festival, and both Hollywood and New York Screenplay Contests. He has taught a variety of creative writing classes, including fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. | www.Nathan-Elias.com | @_NathanElias

Photo: Meriç Tuna

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