self-portrait as bird flying into window -wanda deglane

dead bird

and when you pull over, you’re still screaming,
hands held shaking in front of you like the skin

of them must not be real. my body hurled into
your windshield like mid-autumn hailstorm. my body

leaves streaks of blood and feathers and blindsided
desecration. my body the railroad tracks and

the trainwreck. the punching bag and the percussion
instrument. the pigeon queen, at once both sickness

and softness. you’re stumbling out of your vehicle,
sobs chiming from your throat. you see from

far away a mash of gray and white and red and bone.
tell yourself you can look at me up close. the carnage,

and the tenderness vomited from its mouth. there is
a strange grief inside you and you don’t know how

to free it from your ribs. there was a grief inside me,
and it spills an ocean on this asphalt.


Wanda Deglane is a night-blooming desert flower from Arizona. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and attends Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Glass Poetry, Drunk Monkeys, and Yes Poetry, among other lovely places. Wanda is the author of Rainlily (2018), Lady Saturn (Rhythm & Bones, 2019), Venus in Bloom (Porkbelly Press, 2019), and Bittersweet (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2019).

Photo: Chris Slupski

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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1632 (the witch) – december lace

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After Claire C. Holland’s “Thomasin”

Dead roots from an infertile farmland
wither all around her

She is the only sprouting thing for miles
in this muted abandoned wood

Her ripening lips wish for stained glass,
butter, and a pretty dress

She left her heart in an established
country across the sea, unwilling

pilgrim bound by a parent’s faith
She shivers as an outcast, unsnared traps

leave her stomach broken, the whisper of
the dark side growing louder. Kill the roots,

they say. Kill the roots.


December Lace is a former professional wrestler and pinup model from Chicago. She has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Molotov Cocktail, Pussy Magic Lit, The Cabinet of Heed, Awkward Mermaid, Vamp Cat, and Rhythm & Bones YANYR Anthology, among others. She loves Batman, burlesque, cats, and horror movies.

Photo: Meriç Tuna

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i run into wolves running – ghost #13

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i run into wolves running
into me into mirrors into
switchbacks into endless
forests along endless rivers

i run into wolves running
into walls into hiding into
rebirth into fires in rooms
that they may not ever find

i run into wolves running
into death into memory
into the precision of a
scalpel into the western west

and therein i die and i die
and i run and i die and i
see it there on the shelves
the dust attracted to the

light like moths attracted
to fire like wolves attracted
to movement to packs to
new mentality until they too

die. and i too die. and if
not now then when and
if not now then when?
then when?

 we are ghosts. then when?


ghost #13 is something something something. they are from somewhere, sometime. this one is dedicated to someone someone, another ghost, i’m sure.

Photo: Ruslan Bardash

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miracle: an excerpt from the diary of lea knight -attica adams

Miracle (2)

1. Beginnings
Menace is in the air. Tragedies are in the making. Fear passes from each to each. It has always been this way.

2. Parents
Mine were violent and all-powerful. They even knew this about each other. Father sarcastically called her “The Queen” because she was cruel and self-absorbed. Mother called him “The Minotaur,” after the creature of incalculable fury.
Jack’s were a little different. His mother was violent, but his father was not. His mother beat him. His father was rarely around. Jack’s father called Jack’s mother “The Witch” because of her sharp tongue. His mother called his father “The Goat Man” for his lasciviousness, for he liked the ladies.

3. Dog Stories
I never had a dog when I was little, but Jack did, a little Boston Terrier named Pepper. And Pepper was everything to Jack, his baby to take care of, his friend to keep him company. A creature pure in its love.
A teenaged boy told me once that his dog was run over by a car. The dog was alive but suffering. He knew he would have to shoot it to put it out of its misery. As the dog lay beside the road, the boy reached his hand out. The dog licked his hand. “The Goddamn thing licked my hand,” the boy said. He was crying when he told me this.
Two weeks ago, in this town, someone tied a stray dog to a pole. The person poured accelerant on the dog and set it on fire. The dog lived for a few days, during which time many people rallied to save it, and when it died many were left feeling empty, with nothing to do and no one to blame.
Last summer, at a festival, I saw a black dog. Its owners stopped to let a child see it. The child was a very young, a boy, not yet able to talk. It was a remarkable dog. I know this because I saw it through the child’s eyes. Its owners went around with it on the end of a string! It had two shiny marbles for eyes! Its hair was short and velvety like the inside of a jewelry box! Nearby, people sold confections and balloons, so there was a flurry of buying. Most people headed toward the river where canons were being fired and men wore uniforms from long-ago wars. Silently, the boy sent his finger forth and touched the dog’s little black anus. The mother was calm. She looked at her child with sadness, as though she had seen something far ahead or had just awakened from a dream about death.
There is a place some humans believe in called “the Rainbow Bridge,” a realm where pets go after death and are restored to full health and happiness. It seems to me a place like the Big Rock Candy Mountain that hobos sing of, a land of lemonade springs and a lake of stew, a land where jails are made of tin and you can walk right out again. In these places, there are no sad consequences to anything pleasurable in life. At the Rainbow Bridge, there’s unending sunshine, room to play, and fresh water and food all the time. It’s a place of reunion, where humans someday rejoin their pets. I’ve heard people say something like, “My Buddy passed over the Rainbow Bridge today.” They say through their tears that now their pet is running free.
We walked to school every morning and Pepper followed us. He knew what classroom we were in and jumped until he could see us through the window. It made everybody laugh, even the teacher. When he was satisfied, he would lie by the door, waiting for us. He would wait all day. As Soren Kierkegaard wrote in his diary, “The yardstick for a human being is: how long and to what degree he can bear to be alone, devoid of understanding with others.” Pepper understood us. This was his proper function, and when were together, we were happy.

4. Punishments
I slept in a room at the end of a long dark hallway on the second-story of our house.
Once I let a rope down for Jack to climb on. The idea was to let him and Pepper live secretly in my room. It made sense at the time.
But Mother heard us and nailed the window shut. And that was the end of that, except for the punishments.
Mother punished me by making me sit under the big tree in our front yard. I sat there for many hours. While there, I developed a relationship with an owl that lived in the tree. The owl became my confessor, listening to all my problems, considering all my questions.
I asked it, “Do you believe in God?” I said, “I have read The Golden Book About God, but there is no picture of God in the book, only pictures of birds, insects, cherries, and stars.”
In my childish way, I wondered whether these things might be God or at least manifestations of Him. I still wonder.
Jack’s punishment began with his mother yelling at the top of her lungs and his father’s grand escape. The Goat Man fled the house, yelling that his witchy wife was nothing but trouble. “If I wanted to take my troubles with me,” he said, “I wouldn’t bother leaving.”
The next day I saw the marks on Jack’s face and arms, the places where she had hit him, making blood rise angrily under his skin.

5. Home
One day I felt good, so I broke into song at the kitchen table. This was rude, Mother said, so she made me sit under the tree again. I sat there for many hours.
It became a regular thing.
The punishment was so frequent that I began to study the situation, and I saw she didn’t care if I stayed under the tree or not. She only wanted me out of her sight. Then I was free to join Jack and Pepper in their explorations.
Jack and I found an old cabin in the forest, and we decorated it with objects we found at the dump. It was homey. We had chairs, a table, a painting of an angel protecting children while they crossed a bridge, and a vase for flowers. We had a whole set of World Book Encyclopedias. We had a circular rug made of old, braided rags sewn together. We gave the rug to Pepper, who slept on it in a sliver of light that came through the cabin window. And while Pepper slept, I read encyclopedias to Jack and quizzed him about the summaries they held.
When we were in the cabin, we never pictured ourselves changed by grief, growing up, or growing old. Like children in a fairy tale, we would be children forever and eventually all would be well.

6. A Cat
I was the one who discovered it. It was a kitten, so tiny it was sleeping in one of father’s shoes. Mother wanted Father to carry it off, but he wouldn’t. She wanted him to kill it but he said no. He didn’t want the cat. He just didn’t want to bow to her commands. He was the Minotaur, the crazy bull at the heart of the labyrinth of life.
I fed the cat and it learned to trust me.
Mother said it would all come to no good.
One day I saw the cat’s belly was large. Mother saw it too and said the cat would have kittens. She blamed Father. What were they going to do now with a bunch of cats? This would upset our stability. Our lives would now be so much worse. An argument ensued. Insults were traded. To end the fight, Father threw a mug of beer at her head. She ducked, so it didn’t hit her. It exploded against the wall.
It was quiet then, enough to hear the mice scurrying behind walls.
Time went on.
It was in the fall when the air was bitter with the smell of burning leaves. That’s when I found the cat dead under a bush.
As Kierkegaard wrote in his diary, “Great is my grief, limitless. Since my earliest childhood, a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic—if it is pulled out I shall die.”
Mother saw the dead cat too and was filled with a magnificent rage. She would give me a lesson, she said.
She had already told me long ago how babies were made, how they were born. Her descriptions of cutting, blood, and pain had left me scarred and afraid.
And now she said she would show me something. She went into the house and got a knife. She wanted to expose the kittens, to show me how they would be hairless and blind, like little rats, she said, like filthy little rats. She sliced the cat open but there were no babies, only a big tumor.
No kittens. This enraged her even more. She threw the cat and the tumor onto our pile of burning leaves. The flames curled everything up, turning it black before reducing it to almost nothing.
After this, I dreamed that the cat had only looked dead. Really, she was alive, except I was the only one who knew it. The dream gave me a private thrill.

7. Irony
One day Jack’s mother chased him around the yard hitting him with a broom handle. She had done this before with other objects, like belts, wire hangers, or shoes. This time, Pepper was barking in outrage.
Have you ever seen an animal killed before your eyes? To see it pink-tongued and bright-eyed, then still. At first you think it will get up and strut like before. You think it just has to. Then you notice it looks so much smaller. You want to ask it, “Where did you suddenly go?”
That afternoon when we returned from school, a dirty shovel was resting next to the house. And that was the end of that.
Some believe in heaven. Some believe in the Rainbow Bridge. Others say the earth is our mother, and she loves us. What the truth is, I can’t say. Though I’ve seen once-buried things and they didn’t look like they were loved by the earth.
After all that happened, I would dream I gave birth to some sad thing, a cancer, a rat, a dog with a broken face, a human fetus distorted beyond repair.
Then, years later when I did have children, they were born beautiful but dead. This is Kierkegaard’s irony.

8. Endings
I knew a woman who had to put her ailing dog to sleep and could not forgive herself.
She showed me a photograph and said to me, “This is my baby.”
There are people who can’t abide a person referring to a dog as their baby. They think it’s silly, or weak, or that the comparison isn’t apt. But I abide.
The creature sighs just as a baby does. It draws close for comfort and drools on your shirt. It yelps in its sleep and we imagine it has nightmares, so we hasten to relieve its trouble. A dog is a placeholder for a thing that’s missing or, in many cases, it’s the thing itself.
“My baby was my everything,” the woman said, “I miss him so much. I miss his mouth, his velvet chest, the way he walks, the way he snuggles, I miss it all.”
The way he walks, she said, the way he snuggles, as if the dog was alive in her mind.
Then she remembered her dog was dead. She said, not to me but to God, “Bring my baby back. His ears and feet. Bring him back, his soft skin, his loving grin; I’m sorry. I did this to him. Why? My baby.”
She was crossing “The Bridge of Sighs.”
In his diary Kierkegaard mentioned “The Bridge of Sighs,” which is the enclosed bridge in Venice which passes over the Rio di Palazzo and which condemned men crossed on their way to their lead dungeons. He said this bridge is the path we all must take on our way to eternity.
Last night I dreamed about the cat again. I was looking out through my childhood eyes, but also the eyes I have now. I was looking at Mother illuminated by fire as she stood against a black and starless sky. She was about to throw the cat onto the burning leaves.
“No,” I shouted, “she’s still alive!” In response, she threw the cat’s body onto the fire. It was as though I had made it happen. After a sharp instant of grief, a sense almost of being sliced in two, I saw the cat leap from the flames and disappear into the night.
I could only stand perplexed.
What had I witnessed, a miracle or all hope leaving?
Even now I have no clue why the universe exists as it is.

 

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Theresa Williams (Attica Adams) has twice received the Individual Excellence Grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including Gargoyle, Hunger Mountain, and The Sun. Her Sun stories can be read here: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/contributors/theresa-williams . Her novel, The Secret of Hurricanes was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. She is currently working on a graphic novel, The Diary of Lea Knight. 

Art: Attica Adams (Theresa Williams)

 

she was summer – dani duval

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She was summer,
covered in pinks & oranges,
& at sunrise she gave me a ring.
She took me north, & summer turned
into fall. She had mentioned her love
for sleep, so I told her she could stay
with me, but she grew thorns of yellows
& wrapped me in chains,
just in time for winter. The snow cleared up
the fog as I fought for spring,
though I soon found she didn’t want
the key. Sometimes I still wonder
if she is still in the snow, but I know
she had a key of her own.

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Bio: Dani is a freshman in high school from Parker, Colorado. This is her first published poem.

Photo: Robert Gramner

unfolding – mela blust

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daughter is the sun
the religion i once shunned
i place my hand on my belly
where life once bloomed
mother womb’s fertile whisper
the musings of god
as the waning rays of child-light fade
i can no longer hold her in the gentle
butterfly net
her wings
budding now through cerise skin –
how love can be
a guide into the ether
how i cannot let it be a trap

 

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Mela Blust is a moonchild, and has always had an affinity for the darkness. Her work has appeared in Isacoustic, Rust+Moth, Anti Heroin Chic, Califragile, and more. 

Photo: Suzanne D. Williams 

a brief composition of someone I knew only in a dream – sophia jones

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I.
He said that we became one under the sun sipping arizona tea,
chasing the heather reeds and marrying ourselves off to the ships as they sail into the indigo silk.
I saw our symphony in wearing each other’s clothes and getting lost in each other’s hair,
swinging under the pale moonlight on a child’s castle we wish we had known when we were young.
I suppose time saw us in watching as your pink and my green paint the sky every night from our tattered windowsill covered in lyrics and terracotta children,
you laying in the empty bathtub while i was singing about a place we’d never been and an adventure we’d never had
It doesn’t matter, because we agree that most of all it happened through spending hours in silence making faces and laughing at the things we love most.

II.
You and I were too busy getting lost in each others’ angelic faces
brightening and rising and sinking as we lay underneath the water damaged ceiling
spilling paint on the unfinished kitchen floor and dancing in the puddles left behind
holding a cigarette neither of us will ever smoke
To smell the scent of linens and strawberry fields and sweat
To regret glancing at your photograph lined walls
To feel the scraps brushing against my thigh as I try to sleep
To miss chasing geese in the park under a grey sky
To notice a love that stood unscathed by the courtney and kurt costumes hanging in our closet
But by the time we did
It was too late for us.

III.
I remember dancing on one another’s toes because of our four left feet
crying when we laugh
finding an old trunk of fancy ladies’ clothes and dressing up for poptarts and tea
that feeling that one moment is never enough
dreams of each other we never talk about but hold so close
But I forgot about the buttercups falling into your eyes
sharing sunglasses and the color pink
freckles dusting our self expression
I suppose I don’t regret filming our home movies on vhs’s even though we could use something more modern
because otherwise I never would have watched these.

IV.
I was always annoyed by those glasses you stole from your dad that always fall onto your fairy-nose
the memorial for michael jackson in the corner of your bedroom
socks that hang off your toes
But even still I can never comprehend why you always smelled like the forest even though you never go outside
the dinosaur that your little brother left for me
Or our obsession with eighties cereal commercials
So I’ll focus on the day we sat on the edge of the bridge and threw petals at the ocean
writing songs together about dead celebrities
and feeling like we are one and pining over the time we missed before we met
because those times are enough
to make me miss you.

 

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Bio: Sophia Jones is an artist, writer, musician an collector of memories. She has spent her childhood chasing imaginary friends and dreams, and in return has written many tales and poems mimicking the euphoric feeling of imagination. She is currently studying to become an art therapist, and aspires to someday publish a full collection of poetry, melodies, and scraps of inspiration found in the glances between strangers.

Photo: Jakob Owens

three scenes of heartache as told by a casual observer – grace nordgren

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One. My local Goodwill was nearly empty the week before Christmas. It was eight o’clock. I had ducked in with a friend, looking for refuge from the bitter weather. We were wrapped in coats that were too thin to keep us properly warm. But we didn’t care. As she browsed the CD collection, I of course gravitated over to the books. Worn paperbacks lay discarded in great quantities, adorned with yellow stickers of a garish color. They were marked with cheap prices, but no one seemed to be interested in them, as the shelves were full and the stacks high. Perhaps it was because they had once belonged to other people. Handling the books with care, I scanned the back covers and flipped the pages. A little volume caught my eye from its position on the pile. I picked it up, and almost discarded it once I realized it was a self-help book for troubled couples. For reasons I cannot explain I opened it, and browsed it page by page. The paragraphs were notated in black pen, and the handwriting was neat and legible in the margins. I read none of the notes, except for one, written in large letters under a heavily circled passage in the book: John- we really need to work on this. Please. I set the book down. It was three dollars.

Two. They lay there like dolls. Their human forms, splayed on the concrete, were barely distinguishable under the tarps. There were police and firemen standing over the bodies, and a small crowd was on the curb. My mother and I hurriedly crossed the street, and a woman who saw us on the sidewalk warned us to always be watchful when driving. And to never text on your cell phone. My mother put a hand on my back and asked me to keep explaining The Iliad to her. She stole sidelong glances at me as we walked down the grassy hill, too green and alive to exist right next door to death. The birds chirping was too cheerful, the sky too clear, and children at the park too lively. My mother bought me a smoothie, probably to take my mind off of the people. But I wasn’t thinking about them. I was engrossed in the story of Achilles playing out in my head. I was numb inside. As stony as the walls of Troy.

Three. My friend’s mother was waiting for us to meet her in the car. We were just leaving a shop, about to exit the mall. A strangled cry made us jump. We turned to see a woman tear towards a kiosk, running like the wind. She gasped and shouted at the saleswoman, so loudly we could hear her from twenty feet away. Her voice rose and cracked as she asked her if she had seen a small four-year old, all by himself. Her tears streamed down her face like lightning, her cries thundering through the mall. The saleswoman shook her head, and tried to placate the woman by dialing her phone, presumably to alert somebody, anybody. The woman spun around and began screaming the child’s name. Jack! Jack! Jack! Over and over. We stood there, unsure what to do. Perhaps some other people approached the woman, it’s hard to remember. I will forever feel guilty about how we chose to leave then. Later that night, in bed, in the dark, my friend shakily whispered that she hoped the woman found her son. I wish we had some way of knowing. On days like this, I resent being human.

 

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Bio: Grace Nordgren is a student from Denver, Colorado.  She is working towards acquiring a degree in English.  She enjoys daydreaming, pondering existence, and pomegranates.  This is her first published piece.

Photo: Prudence Earl