My family grew corn in the heartland, but I’ve never seen it quite like this:
Angelic, husk-winged, guarding every shard of bone hidden in the soil.
How is it that I didn’t know I had thousands of angels? They were with me all the time.
I remember going out into the fields with my grandpa, crossing into the humid network, stalks sending out messages to each other across droplets of August air.
I could hear their choir, their low and incandescent hum, the sway of bass clef notes rocking me to sleep in the farmhouse.
Emily Dickenson advised us all to tell the truth slant, and I remember this is what hailstorms taught the fields. The slant truth seemed tragic, in a way, as if nothing stays upright or rooted for long. Not even cornstalks.
Not even families.
Not even farmhouses, burned to the ground long after they’ve become vacant, when the small town fire department needs a fire to practice on.
Something is always missing.
Maybe it’s just a three-hundred-sixty degree view, the ability to see that everything is overflowing,
all the time.
Cortney Collins lives on the Front Range of Colorado with her two beloved feline companions, Pablo (after Neruda) and Lida Rose (after a barbershop quartet song in The Music Man). She is the founder of the pandemic-era virtual poetry open mic, Zoem. Zoem produced an anthology of its poets’ work, Magpies: A Zoem Anthology, of which she is co-editor. Her work has been published by South Broadway Press, 24hr Neon Mag, Amethyst Magazine, Sheila-na-Gig, Back Patio Press, and others. Cortney considers herself a poet secondarily; her first calling is encouraging others’ beautiful words in community.
This poem is from South Broadway Press’ new anthology, Dwell: Poems About Home. Dwell will be available to purchase August 1st, 2022.
We would like to take a minute to apologize to Stina French. At an event that South Broadway Press helps organize and which Sarah hosts, a poet who was performing asked “Stina, why are you not up here?” and Matt Clifford said “because she talks about people” After Stina replied “Toxic masculinity,” to Matt, Sarah referred to the interaction as “poet drama” to the audience and the poet on the microphone.
Unkindness isn’t okay, and it’s especially not okay in a public setting. Stina, you deserve to expect that a community space will be kind, and that any conflict between you and someone else will be handled privately and still kindly. When something unkind happens in a community space, it should be addressed. Sarah apologized to Stina the night of the event and once again would like to apologize for not addressing the conflict then and there.
Brice also apologized to Stina the night of, and would like to apologize now publicly. We also would like to apologize for not being more communicative with Stina and the community at large in the weeks following the conflict. We’ve learned a valuable lesson about keeping communication open and transparent in our community.
We hope that there is a space for reconciliation here. We are open to dialogue, and Sarah also plans to address this incident and share this apology at the next community event.
Yours in Community,
Brice and Sarah, of South Broadway Press
Matt Clifford would like to say this:
I am sorry to talk about people talking about people to other people in front of other people. It was not my space to truth and talking about people to other people like that isn’t cool. Stina, I hope you and everybody could know just how sorry I truly am. I intend for my own health to never speak of or to you again.
This was an individual slip of tongue in the midst of playing I wish didn’t happen. We have had overwhelmingly successful collaborations with around 400 poets, musicians and artists of many mediums, including ~55 last month and dozens more in the upcoming weeks. Our record of diversity is among most any event on the Front Range. If you don’t feel Punketry is a welcoming space, obviously don’t come, but I can promise you it is and we will continue the work to make sure it stays that way.
Lillie Fischer is a storyteller and director. Her work explores loss, honesty, our relationship with the earth and how to reach out to our inner child. Currently she is prepping for several experimental short films on an artist commune in Northern Colorado with her husband and dog.@lilliefischer
Jesse Lee Pacheco is a Performance Artist from Denver, Colorado. Life is wonderful. Life should be positive. When it’s blown to pieces, that’s when it becomes art.@jesselee_sent_ya
Eddie opened his eyes and saw a pair of greyish eyes staring back at him. Amidst his sleepy stupor, he failed to immediately recognize that they were the eyes of his boyfriend, Arno. His first thought, once he realized who was staring back at him, was about the reasons Arno could have to hover over him. His second thought was wondering why Arno’s mouth was duct-taped.
Arno gestured to Eddie, placing a single finger over his duct-taped mouth, and turned around to grab a piece of paper. He quickly whipped himself around again and held the paper up. In large letters, Eddie saw the words “Don’t Speak.” Eddie, thinking this was some sort of awkward or poorly executed prank, he yelled at Arno.
Jagged shapes materialized in front of Eddie’s mouth and flew at Arno, violently pushing him against the wall. Arno once again lifted the piece of paper and held it up. He pointed at it, reinforcing the message it contained.
Eddie ran over to Arno and hugged him. He could not help but let out a small whisper apologizing for his mistake. Eddie immediately suffered the consequences. He felt hundreds of little shapes in his mouth, escaping slowly and burning his lips and tongue. Eddie clenched his jaw and tried to stop himself from vocalizing anymore. Eddie ran his hands all around Arno, checking for injuries and breathed in relief after he found none.
He gestured for Arno to follow him and led him to the computer. It seemed that in his fear, Arno had not had the wherewithal to see if this strange phenomenon was happening anywhere else. He flipped the laptop open and backed away, afraid that the start-up sound may just slap him across the face. Much to his joy, it didn’t. He searched the first news site he could think of. Breaking news was highlighted and flashing in black and red at the top of the website’s homepage. It was an article. It stated that, in no uncertain terms, a global phenomenon was happening.
All around the world, apparently, reports were sent in, in the form of videos. One of the videos showed a spectator loudly marveling at the heads carved into Mt. Rushmore. Those shapes materialized, but from this person, who Eddie assumed was yelling, the shapes were huge. They knocked off the nose of George Washington; another showed the Coliseum being crumbled by a crowd of young men who had already decided to harness their voices to cause trouble.
Eddie couldn’t bear to continue watching the destruction and slammed the laptop closed. Arno gently rubbed Eddie’s back. Eddie could tell that Arno wanted to comfort him with his words, as he had frequently done in the past, and Eddie wanted that too. It pained him that he couldn’t hear Arno’s sweet, yet, lazy sounding voice dole out the wisdom that he needed.
Eddie decided that all they could do was to keep living as usual, even though that was difficult to do. Neither Eddie nor Arno could go to work. If the school in which Arno worked had still been in session, Arno might have killed all the children in an attempt to teach. Eddie was a public speaker by trade. His very livelihood depended on his voice, and, if he couldn’t use it, he’d be destitute. So, they confirmed by email that all upcoming schedules were canceled and hoped that this whole thing would subside.
But, despite their greatest hopes, the unexplainable weaponization of human sound continued. Day in and day out, Arno and Eddie kept passing notes, like schoolboys holding on to a secret that they daren’t share with anyone else, like Eddie did with his first crush. Back then, it was exhilarating. Now, it was exhausting.
For weeks they lived like this. They watched reruns of the shows they liked. They watched a bunch of old movies that they never had time to view. Then, the day came that they ran out of food. Their fridge was barren. All that remained was a semi-empty jug of milk and a bottle of ketchup. They decided to make the drive to the city. The closer they got to it, the more in disbelief they became. Entire buildings were toppled. Roads had been destroyed. But, like a canary in a coal mine, miraculously, the grocery store appeared pristine.
Walking in for them felt eerie. No one spoke. There were no pleasant ‘hellos’ or thank you’s,’ there was only the deafening silence that had plagued them for weeks. As they shopped, something stopped them in their tracks. The grocery store used to have music play as customers shopped. Now, the grocery store had replaced them with televisions, that would let its patrons know if anything urgent was being addressed. On those televisions, a vital address from the president began to roll across the screen. The president’s address outlined the mandatory changes that would sweep across the country.
ASL was now the official spoken language of the United States.
Speaking would now be considered a crime. Those who were arrested for the offense would be placed in a facility that would most likely withstand the power of their voice.
Eddie and Arno were dumbfounded. They wondered whether there was truly no solution to this situation. The next few years would prove that thought true. Movies and TV became a thing of the past. Those who tried to record them were jailed for public endangerment. The world, or the world that Eddie knew, became a slower and more friendly place. A place in which people’s feelings could no longer be voiced immediately. It became a world of text.
But, for any of the good that came about, there were plenty of negative aspects as well as well. Incarceration rates tripled. Protests for change could largely be ignored, and if they weren’t, more often than not, that meant that a building had been shouted down as a statement. The decrease in entertainment sales dealt a massive blow to the economy. Birth rates dropped, as no one could quite figure out how to get babies to be silent all the time. There were more newborn orphans than ever, as many children who were born had unknowingly killed their parents, or the parents simply realized there were not up to the task of risking their lives daily to raise a child.
For Eddie and Arno, things were mostly okay. Eddie had made and saved quite a bit of money from his career. It was enough to retire on, and that’s precisely what he did. But as comfortable as they were, alone in their middle of nowhere home, Eddie wished things had remained the same. He missed speaking in front of crowds, he missed the sounds of people. He missed the person who would whistle as they walked down the street. He missed the sound of ridiculous advertisements. He missed what he now felt was the most critical part of the human experience…having a voice.
Brian Byrdsong is a gay, black, bilingual writer living in Denver, CO. Originally from Georgia, he’s called Colorado home since 2010, when he moved there to attend the University of Northern Colorado. He has degrees in both Spanish and Communications. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing video games with his partner and spending time with his cat, Mew. @arrythmicbyrd Instagram.com/arrythmicbyrd www.abyrdmind.com
your breasts hang in a fog & you can no longer see the ceiling or clouds & can no longer
feel your ( ) you do not know where they are
his jeans ripped at the knee showed hair ( ) & dried scraps he says unreasons says hair says bodies says sweat says it won’t matter once it’s done
a pear split so that you could dig out the seed to see what you’ve always wanted to rid ( )
hexagon breath turning like a wheel up your throat clunky like ( it was man-made ) the air was yellow & glittering sharp a fast sun was it always so full-bodied
until then you had always loved yellow
it was like a side stitch after running too far it pierced that you looked to the stars & ran to find thread sew sew sew it tighter
your opening is gone it is red & songblue it wasn’t firework it wasn’t a redred balloon it was a dried puddle
set of drawers with kids’ clothing the shade of moths’ wings holes absorbing the mahogany grief this is the morning you decide your new outfit
it was late late light loose hair clinging to plastic rose petals quiet & dry
( ) you kept wanting to close the shades to stop the light to just know the lick of darkness to just be in it & not be talked at about pointed stars & wishes they made
if you are caught in quicksand you have to lay down flat spread your limbs hold your weight in your chest you must face palms up & open like the sky you watch who is blue & counting ( close) your eyes (think) of water (think) of the year the flood came & swept your home away
he said he found a ring it was diamonds cut from earth just like you how you were born he slipped it over your ankles, thighs, hips ( * ) & when he reached your stomach rock after rock fell out of you & became the ring became a gift of the earth’s ground
Violet Mitchell is a Denver-based writer and artist. She earned a B.A S. in cognitive literary studies and is completing an MFA degree in creative writing poetry, both from Regis University. Her work has been published in Heavy Feather Review, The Blue Route, Sixfold, Word for Word, ANGLES, Furrow Magazine, and several other journals. She received the Robert A. O’Sullivan, S.J. Memorial Award for Excellence in Writing in 2019.
Loneliness has transformed into electric-green cacti and short, spiny plants. Anxiety raises flowers that look vibrant and oily in the daylight. Restlessness enriches the earth, coloring flora with a spill of magenta, a blaze of orange.
In the end, fear evaporates entirely under the sun. It turns into the soil caked under her nails, the wet clumps that stick to her thighs and the back of her knees.
This garden takes terrible things and puts them to good use.
At least, that’s what she tells herself.
ii. When Jena is eight, her father picks her up from school and drives for two days straight.
He tells her it’s for the best.
Sometimes, he says, running is the only thing a person can do.
The farther they drive, the quieter she becomes. Tears dry to salt on her skin. Beneath their feet, the thunderous rhythm has become something dangerous.
In her mind, she disappears.
Jena feels safe amongst the shrubs. She can easily envision this sanctuary, and so she builds it. Trees and plants and birds sprout from the ground. They start as feathery buds with paper-thin roots. As their bodies take shape, her father’s voice thins into the breeze, his face hardens to bedrock.
Every time fear creeps in, her hands form fists. With the garden she can outrun it, outmatch it, and she barely has to wait before it subsides in the grass.
iii. Jena doesn’t know it yet, but theirs will be a life on the move.
It will start with a string of motels. Each one will be indistinguishable from the next, with their jelly-lit signs, the soap slivers that cut her skin. They will turn into a monochromatic blur of vending machines and scratchy sheets and stained walls.
Soon, she won’t be able to fall asleep without barks of laughter, or the drone of a generator. It will feel unnatural to sit outside the cramped design of a car. Most of her spare time will be spent in a garden that never changes.
Years will pass before she is home again, standing in a room that no longer feels like her own.
Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She pens literary horoscopes for F(r)iction Series. Her stories can be found or are forthcoming in The Sunlight Press, X–R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Reflex Fiction, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her partner or watching too many movies. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901 and Instagram @ajordanwriter.
I avoided speaking for fear of communication
or maybe humiliation.
I didn’t know how to talk
to speak their language without reprisal.
Slipping up in our household was tantamount to losing
and losing was bad
and bad is how I felt
for much of my life.
See shame runs deep
in my family
coincidentally is quite a shame.
Who is this Bruce Sterlingcharacter? Some call him philosopher, some call him dad. Nobody calls him a poet but that doesn’t stop him from crafting lines into something just about good enough to read. Without any formal training he seems to hold his own at the beloved Writer’s Block’s weekly writing events. He’s known to say, “Spending time with the poetry community is the only sane thing to do in this world. It fosters creativity, acceptance and huge amounts of love and frankly not much else matters.” Bruce is published in Spit Poet and Writer’s Block zines.
This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry, “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.
especially after the last time
our pizza was made by hand
sanitizer, but I believe in second
toppings & chances. I wear my mask
covered with butterflies & wonder
if the young man in the next car
chuckles at me for taking that chance
in nature-filled protection
while he has no fabric for his mouth.
I don’t want to speak for him
as a ventriloquist but I am uneasy
& worried out here in my sky
watching for birds & clouds
& the coming storm that may
or may not happen. Of course
this is me daydreaming
of last year where every surface
was immaculate as we drift
together in a winged migration
back inside. I have to admit
I have cash to pay with & can
include a nice tip as I also have time
to embrace this time. We all can
wait outside together as three birds
swoop in a motion many never do.
After the cashier hands me my pizzas
in their warm boxes, I can pause
one more time here searching
to remember when I offered change
or leftover food to anyone as a cardinal
stops for a discarded crust.
Dennis Etzel Jr. lives in Topeka, Kansas with Carrie and the boys where he teaches English at Washburn University. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.
YOU CAN VISIT OUR FUNDRAISER FOR THOUGHT FOR FOOD HERE.
In these times of COVID-19 and social isolation, many people are out of work and lacking the resources necessary to even feed themselves.
South Broadway Press, the parent LLC of South Broadway Ghost Society, would like to help suppport local non-profit Denver Food Rescue by raising funds through an anthology of poetry entitled “Thought For Food”.
What Denver Food Rescue does:
We increase health equity with Denver neighborhoods by rescuing high-quality, fresh produce and perishable foods that would otherwise be thrown away by grocery stores, farmers markets, and produce distributors. With the help of our amazing volunteers, the food we rescue is delivered (often biked!) to Denver neighborhoods for direct distribution at No Cost Grocery Programs (NCGPs). NCGPs are co-created with existing community organizations like schools, recreation centers, and nonprofits that are already established and trusted within the neighborhood, decreasing transportation barriers. Residents of the NCGP community lead the distribution of rescued food, and many also help with food rescue shifts. This participation decreases stigma of traditional food pantries, empowering each neighborhood to create a program that is appropriate for their culture & community.
“Food For Thought” will be an anthology featuring a single poem by each selected contributor. Copies of “Thought For Food” will be available to contributors for $6. They will sell to other folks for $15 each.
Poems can be on any theme. If you’d like to be prompted, consider writing on the theme of food, or on life in the face of a pandemic.
“Thought For Food” marks South Broadway Press’ first release.
Submissions for this project will close on May 11th of 2020.
We will accept previously published materials.
If you would like to submit please send an email to email@example.com with the following information:
Subject: THOUGHT FOR FOOD
A brief 100-word-or-less bio.
Up to three poems as a Word document or a Google Doc. We are not paying contributors for this project, but contributor copies will be available at a discounted rate of $6 each.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
She likes to pull out her pubic hair one at a time. She waits until a forest of spindly black vines has grown between her thighs, eagerly anticipating how strong each strand will be, how thick the roots will have become.
Little slivers of pain accompany the loss of each hair. She studies the water-encapsulated tip, the fibrous black strand. She would like to uproot other things. If she could, she’d start with all the people who have caused her pain.
Mostly, she’d like to uproot the people she hears about on the news, the ones who are sometimes women but usually men.
She likes to imagine her hand gripping a pair of tweezers, snapping the pincers open and shut—like a hungry alligator—before fitting the silver tongs around each of their heads, pulling them out at the root.
Each time she tweezes her pubic hair, the pain gets a little sharper. Her smile grows a little wider.
How nice it is, she thinks, to clear the debris.
Alyssa Jordan is a writer living in the United States. She pens literary horoscopes for F(r)iction Series. Her stories can be found or are forthcoming in The Sunlight Press, X–R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Reflex Fiction, and more. When she’s not writing, she’s hanging out with her partner or watching too many movies. You can find her on Twitter @ajordan901and Instagram @ajordanwriter.