a sex toy shop – margaret reynolds

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“How’d you come up with the store’s name?” the director asks Marissa, our store manager.

Marissa and the documentary crew have set up in the BDSM corner today, their shot backdropped by feather ticklers and paddles. The other employees — Jay and Arman — and I are pretending to restock lingerie while secretly watching the interview.

“Well, we brainstormed a couple of ideas. Our first one was — A Sex Toy Shop for Misfits and Mutants. But then the sign people quoted us about a million dollars for that name,” Marissa speaks crisply. Smacks hard on her consonants. I’m guessing she’s spitting because the cameraman keeps backing away from her, only to bump into the mannequin sporting a strapon.

“Why would you call it ‘A Sex Toy Shop for Misfits and Mutants’?” the director asks.

“No one warned him?” I whisper to Jay.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Marissa smiles at the director and then winks at us. Fuck, she knows we aren’t working. I hurriedly shove more knee-high stockings onto the shelf.

“Ok, I guess… What was your…” the director cuts himself off and throws his arms into the air. “Brett! Will you stop fucking moving. Our footage is going to be shaky.”

Brett, the cameraman, sulks back towards Marissa, glaring in turns at the director and the strapon mannequin.

The director sighs, “As I was saying, what other names did you come up with?”
Marissa smacks her lips again. I see Brett’s nostrils flare, but after getting a nasty side look from the director, he stays put.

“Well, we cut it to Misfits and Mutants, but then Jay said people are going to think we are literally selling misfits and mutants. Like mutant trafficking, I guess. He’s very dramatic like that,” Marissa’s shaking her head. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Arman’s eyes go wide. Probably picturing the director cutting Marissa saying “mutant trafficking, I guess” and using it for god knows what.

“I suggested just Dildos,” Marissa waves her hand across the air, like she’s presenting a Broadway play, before frowning. “But everyone said the name would be limiting. I mean, we have a fabulous dildo collection, don’t get me wrong. However, we don’t want people to think that we only sell dildos.”

“The other ideas were — Paddles for Non-Gendered Pussies, Misfit Magic ;), and Demons, Dildos, and Desire. Oh my!” Marissa counts the names off on her fingers.

“So why’d you go with Sex Toys.”

Marissa shrugs and pulls out her whiny, I’m mimicking corporate voice, “Oh, well, corporate called and said, ‘Franchises don’t get to choose their own name,’ or something dumb and uninspired liked that.”

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“So, Callie, what’s your favorite part of working at the store?” the director asks me.
Jay and I are in the breakroom, sitting across from the director. Jay’s arms are crossed.
Marissa told Jay him he had to give at least one interview for the documentary about the store. Jay told Marrissa she was essentializing trans dudes to improve the diversity of the documentary. Marissa told Jay that he was a self-centered twat, not everything was about him, and all employees were required to give at least one interview. Jay told Marissa he didn’t appreciate her using feminine-gendered insults like twat. Marissa told Jay she calls everyone a twat and then, to prove it, summoned Arman and called him a twat. Arman told Marissa he didn’t mind being called that, even though he was obviously heartbroken (his cheeks got all saggy and his lips got all sad duck). Marissa told us to go just get on with the interview for christ’s sake and then had to leave and apologize to Arman and tell him she didn’t really think he was a twat and that she actually considered him a very good employee.

So Jay and I were abandoned to the somewhat shell-shocked director.

“The support group is nice, I guess,” I respond to the director.
Director: “What support group?”

Me: “Oh, I mean there’s a couple, but the shapeshifter one is obviously helpful for me.”

Director: “What?”

Me: “I mean, the support group is like, helping me come to terms with my chameleon-ing. For so many years I felt like I had the worst power. Like when will I ever need to look like a paisley chair? Plus it just feels like the Shapeshifter Power Giving Gods, or whoever the fuck hands this shit out, gave me the most mysoginistic power they had.

Like Jay gets to change all of his body hair, and I’m stuck with blending in with my environment? Isn’t that basically underscoring the narrative that femmes should be invisible? Anyhow, I guess the Shapeshifter Power Giving Gods probs don’t really worry about gender stereotypes. But the Shapeshifter Support Group is, uh, helpful, yea. To answer your question.”

Director: “Wait, WHAT?”

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“So, welcome to the Shapeshifter Support Group!” Jay beams around the circle, gives a thumbs up to the doc crew sitting in the corner, and continues to read off the notes in front of him, “After after our discussion last week, we agreed to go with pronouns, powers, and pastries as our introduction?”

“We wanted something alliterative,” I say.

“We wanted something tasty,” Ella winks at us from across the chair circle that we set up close to the register.

“Well I’m Jay. My pronouns are he, him. I can shift my hair. All my body hair,” Jay winks at me. I roll my eyes. Done with today’s fucking winking trend. “And I like… bagels?”

“Bagels aren’t a pastry,” the new guy next to Jay mutters and folds his arms.

“What’s the definition of a pastry?” Jay makes a face at the new guy.

“Maybe it has to be sweet?” I say. A few people in the circle nod. Ella cups their chin thoughtfully. Aaron closes zir eyes. I check my watch. Aaron has never made it longer than three minutes into support group before ze disappears. Literally. We’ve made it seven minutes, so that’s exciting. I give Aaron a thumbs up, and the next second, zir chair is empty.

“Damnit,” I mutter under my breath.

“What?” Jay looks at me, and when I don’t respond, he continues, “Ok, fine, a strawberry bagel. I pick a strawberry bagel as my pastry.”

“Well…” new guy taps their cheek as they think.

“Does anybody make strawberry bagels?” Ella calls across the circle.

“So I think we should just move on to the next person. Jay, we’ll come back to you regarding the pastry part of your intro,” I sigh, staring at Aaron’s empty chair. I point at the new guy, “I think you’re next.”

“Fine. I’m Emmanuel. My pronouns are they, them. My pastry is toast,” new guy says.

Jay throws his hands into the air. His midnight skin flushes red, “You get toast?! And I can’t have a bagel?!”

“Toast with jam,” Emmanuel shrugs. “It’s sweet.”

Emmanuel glares around the circle. Ella nods supportively. Jay rolls his eyes. The air above Aaron’s chair seems to shift in a neutral way.

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The director appears one afternoon to show us some edited clips his documentary team has been working on.

“I think these clips will give you a sense of the documentary’s main mission: to humanize and normalize different sexualities, and uh, abilities,” director man says.

“To humanize and normalize dildos,” Jay smirks and lazily drapes an arm across the back of my chair.

“Could you be serious for one second?” Arman squints his eyes at Jay.

Jay squints back at Arman, “Could you be not-ugly for one second?”

Marissa squints at everyone, “I think we are losing focus here.”

“Anyway….” the director clears his throat. “I am first going to show you a clip of Callie describing an experience with your district manager, Alec.”

I swallow loudly and end up coughing on my own spit. Jay pats my back. His fingers linger on the nape of my neck, and I wish I could just enjoy the feeling of his well moisturized fingers on my skin. But no. All I can think about his Alec and his pelvis walk.

The director clicks play on the laptop he’s put on the table in front of us. It’s me, sitting in the breakroom corner, a fern close behind me. At one point, I lean back too far back, right into the fern, a leaf poking at the corners of my mouth.

In the clip, I shove the fern away before saying, “So one night, I had to close the store with Alec, the district manager. I was playing my own music, but during cleanup, Alec disappeared into the back. After a minute, a new song comes on, and the lyrics are, ‘TAPE me / TAPE me, my friend / TAPE me / TAPE me again’. It was awful. I was so freaking scared, and I can’t even report it! Because the person I would report to is Alec.”

“I didn’t realize you had such a, uh, deep voice,” Marissa raises her eyebrows at me.

The director shuffles his feet and pauses the video. Looking at a spot above my head, he says, “So we had to censor a few words, dub over them, to make it appropriate for our audience.”

Arman laughs. Doubling over his neatly crossed legs, clasping his hands on his knees, “So we can say ‘vibrator’ and ‘sex toy,’ but not ‘rape’?”

The director nods vigorously, “Yes! I’m so glad you understand. But see, if you need to say ‘rape’, you could instead just say, ‘tape’.”

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Arman tells Marissa he is “camera shy” (though, I guess not for Instagram photos?), so Marissa gives him permission to not do his interview.

“She said I just needed to provide some sort of representation of my experience working at the store,” Arman explains to me, smirking. “So I was wondering, do you know how to use a tape recorder?”

I raise my eyebrows before he hands me a series of drawings tilted, “An Illustrated Guide to Professional Clothing that Fits Over Wings: Arman’s Story.”

“Could you, like, narrate this or something? Then give it to the doc people?” he asks, converting his smirk to a smile I assume he considers sweet.

The next day, I hand him the following recording:

“Arman on Monday: Tight fitting, faux tux t-shirt with an open back.

Arman after Instagramming his outfit and reading the comments on his post for over an hour: ‘Do I have back fat?’

Arman on Tuesday: Detective cloak with two slits in the back. Fedora.

Arman after Jay looked at him: ‘What? It’s Burberry!’

Arman on Wednesday: Double suspenders over a backless button down.

Arman to me: ‘So the cloak was a knock-off, but don’t say anything to Jay…’

Arman on Thursday: Furry pink infinity scarf. No shirt.

Arman to Marissa’s raised eyebrows: ‘Is this against dress code?’”

The recording stops and Arman sighs for at least 10 seconds, rolling his eyes slowly,

“Fine, I’ll just ask Jay to do it.”

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“Callie, we got a new shipment in. I need you to do inventory,” Marissa reads off the clipboard quickly. Chomps on her gum loudly. Blows a bubble and lets it pop over her lips. She scrapes the gum off with her teeth. I’m half-asleep against a locker in the back of the workroom, and only stir because I hear my name.

Marissa continues, “Arman, you’re on register. Jay’s re-stocking. Got it?”

Jay’s leaning back in his chair and raises his arm lazily. Barely makes a right angle.

Marissa chomps her gum louder and sneers at Jay’s hand. Probably wishes she could give him a detention for slouching. Given that the documentary people are sitting in on this team meeting, she’d told us to, “Behave like good school children,” and I think we are all embracing that direction in our own way.

“What?” she narrows her eyes at Jay. “We have to get the store open.”

“People have been asking questions about the Jesus dildo.” Jay drapes himself smugly against the back of his chair.

“What fucking Jesus dildo?” Marissa smacks her lips at each of us in turn. Arman’s eyes go wide. He stares determinately at a spider web in the corner.

I clear my throat, fully awake now, and shoot Jay a nasty look. “They came in last week. I think Alec ordered them.”

“That little…” Marissa bites her tongue and straightens her suit coat. “What questions, Jay?”

“Like why do we have a Jesus dildo? That old lady from the nursing home, who’s always coming in on her days out? She was super upset about it.” Jay’s tapping his feet and bites his lip to keep from laughing. It makes his dimples turn down in a stupid cute way. Even Arman, fucking lick Marissa’s asshole Arman, is covering his mouth as if he’s yawning.
“So what do we say to them?” Jay continues when Marissa doesn’t answer.

She slides her glasses onto her head and rubs her hand down her face.

“Just say…. Well, I guess, just say…” Marissa sighs deeply. “Say some customers feel it brings them closer to Jesus.”

Arman gawks. “Closer to Jesus? Like in a spiritual way?”

“I mean, I think it’s pretty literal. Since it’s a dildo,” Jay snickers.

“Just go open the store,” Marissa points at the door and taps her foot until we file out.

Ten minutes later, the bell rings, and a regular walks in. He’s middle-management at some corporate office across the street, and he has an impressive collection of pink polos and prostate stimulators. He does his regular loop then heads to the register.

“Why’d you start carrying a Jesus dildo?” he asks Arman.

I look up to see Arman stare at Marissa’s office, waiting for a save. When nothing comes, he shakes his head and says, “Well some customers say, it uh, brings them closer to Jesus.”

I can only see the back of Middle Management’s balding head, but I can see that he doesn’t respond. The register is having a slow day. Taking a full minute to process credit cards.

As the silence stretches out, Arman begins to sweat. Swipes his forehead. Scratches his ear. Eventually he clears his throat.

“You know. Closer to Jesus. Since you put Jesus inside yourself. Because its a didlo. So, uh, yea. Closer. To Jesus. I mean it’s kind of literal, I guess…” Arman begins to ramble.
“Got it. Thanks,” Pink Polo says quickly, grabbing his bejeweled butt plug and making a beeline for the door.

Jay hoots, looks over to where the doc crew is situated, and says directly into the camera lens, “We’re a regular fucking church! Hallelujah!”


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Margaret Reynolds is a genderqueer author and educator based in Colorado. They enjoy writing queer romance with a sprinkle of ghost. You can find their fiction in The Thought Erotic and Danse Macabre. WEBSITE | TWITTER

Cover photo: Michael Prewett

 

 

 

 

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naked body – veronica love

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

It sounded like she said,
“Every day when I get home, I find a naked body in the bed.”
And in this light, the lines on her face show the naked worry in her head
As I wonder if the body is awake or sleeping,
there is naked fear inside my chest
And the smell of the other’s cologne in the room is a validation of my dread.
We were always meant to be temporary,
But now I feel as though I am being bled
By a stranger,
One that I thought was a ghost.
A name no longer to be said,
A memory of what once was,
Between the one I love,
And the naked body in her bed.


20191206_175719_Film7Veronica Love is a writer of fiction, poetry and editorials. Her work has appeared in several literary journals including Page and Spine and Flash Fiction Addiction. She spends her free times traveling to places rich with culture, reading, writing and laughing. She is always on the lookout for a new and strange adventure and loves dancing in the rain.

Cover Photo: Jp Valery

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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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two poems – lauren napier

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

A Definition of the End

When the devil drives
The heart takes a backseat
Down a path tread by broken stares
false hopes
empty deeds

Blades of grass damp and clinging to the ground below
Damp with tears meant to quench the gasps of burning bridges
And clammy hands no longer afraid
But awaiting
To grasp the end
A definitional moment
An end to the anger
Of the peripheral glare of the reaper’s shadow
A tongue finally forbidden to slander

When the devil drives
The heart must relinquish the keys in the ignition
For
Needs must

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Who I Found Virginia City, Nevada

What are you thinking about when your fingers twitch in sleep?
Thoughts that are voiced with that one whiskey over the tipping point
The phone was dialed
And answered in a ghost town graveyard
Desert wind and your voice
A yearning heart’s medicine

The coyote greeted me at the gate
The scent of sage in flared nostrils
An urge to follow him over the hills and into the brush
Dissolving into his dusty camouflage
Until a
Murmur through the phone line
Asks “where will we find our peace?”

Wherever are you whenever your bones are in the bed next to mine?
I find myself lost between the whispers and the dreams
Down paths that do not disappear within the day
And those that I will follow into the night

When did these footsteps appear just beyond the fence?
When my gaze was distracted by the moon rising above the cliff
I heard a deep and and heavy sigh
And decided whenever
Wherever
And there
I would follow the moonlight wisdom in the shadow’s hair


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lauren.napier finds solace in melody and the written word. She has penned a children’s book, All My Animals, stories for NPR Berlin, amongst other texts and songs. lauren is often traveling with her feline, notebooks, and acoustic guitar, exploring her surroundings and sharing stories. WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER 
Cover Art: Davide Ragusa
Author Photo: Barbara Rodriguez

her tongue – paul ilechko

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

She pushes her tongue
into the hole of his castration
his vacancy the hollow
and her saliva mixing
with the memory of loss

                          a hawk shimmies into
                          the place within the sky
                          where the sun used to rise
                          before the blackness
                          became merely emptiness

along the border she finds
men nailed upon crosses …
suspended as a temporary
measure until their paperwork
might be verified

                          a desert is a field
                          that has lost a lottery
                          for which it never even
                          purchased a ticket and really
                          how cruel must that be?

she dreams of children …
and children might once have been
possible might even have been
welcome but not now
not here in this field of bones

                          he remembers being a man
                          in the time before they stripped
                          the tendons from within his
                          flesh and tied him to a post
                          beneath a dying sun

she thrusts her tongue
into the desert of his throat …
squeezing out moisture
that might just keep him alive
for one more day.


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Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, West Trade Review, Yes Poetry, Otoliths and Indicia. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. INSTAGRAM| FACEBOOK

Cover Photo: Jared Verdi

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

lali & the void (a love story) or, he gives me gifts -yesica mirambeaux

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

Last night I dreamed I had a torrid love affair with the void

 

Sometimes it would take on its true form and everything around us would blur        tip       and slide inside it

awash to points unseen

 

I would stand impassive and watch it consume piles of matter and aether alike

 

all things that were once thought to be lost were certainly found              here

 

it would gaze into my eyes nakedly, lovingly, and select a sneaker-clad leg from a pile of refuse

 

so I would watch the bones crunch in its enormous maw

and admire it for being so fully                                            itself

without a hint of self-consciousness

 

just the quietly, unabashedly rapacious beast   it really was

no shame

no real evil, even                        in its deliberately passive

elaborately encompassing                  self singular

wu wei

 

 

sometimes it takes on another form

of a beautiful young lover with messy curls that hang to his shoulders

all dynamical plenum, a sleek frowzy heroin chic slinking about him

languid and passionate all at the same time

 

in this form he laughingly chases me            through white-walled apartment complexes

slamming me up against the doorways and

pressing up against me

in long,                             interminable halls

my very own aphairestic machine

 

he is the void and it consumes me fresh each time

 

still no matter how many times he visits

or how long I stay

 

I still remain to tell the tale

naked                                     and    unscathed

 

the only trace of our trysts a certain wisp of a peaceful       and       lasting              wu wei

 

that    braids   and    sinks itself               into my wide-open dna

a stubborn  keepsake         of  a  sudden    calling


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Yesica Mirambeaux is a longtime writer with a passion for the written word in all its many and diverse forms. At the age of 16 she won the Walter J. Suskind Award for a short story and has continued writing, both in her personal and professional life. As a content manager, information architect, tech writer, and corporate blogger, she enjoys the challenge of understanding a company’s story and finding the best way to share it. As a perpetual storyteller to her loved ones, she is happiest when crafting personalized poetry and entertaining snippets for the circle of people she loves most.

Cover Art: Mohamed Nohassi

an open letter to hannah wilke – stephanie hempel

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

Dear Hannah,

The moon is exactly half carved of your belly, your hair is now exhausted, and your mass is so madly and how did you meet the person who lives under your flesh? The pale and ripe body that births the gesture through the exoskeleton? You stuck gum to your naked body, shaped like a series of miniature vulvas, and I put my breasts on the scanner, cut my hair, curled it next to a knife. How can I locate this body? How else could I locate this body?

And you did, and when you did, did you let yourself have it? The museum deity? The attention from the audience as they scolded you for the hairpin curve around your nipples? The chewed-up gum, your chewed-up gum, the photographer’s chewed-up gum, saliva stuck over your face, the nape your neck, the line of your pelvis, mountain crease of your hip bones. Woman covered wholly in woman.

Who chewed the gum, Hannah? Was that your own spit? The rubbing between raw flesh and the plasticity of bubble gum. Hannah, I was in Athens when I learned the rape wasn’t my fault. I was four years old and it wasn’t my fault. I was at my uncle’s house and it wasn’t my fault. My mother told me that as a child he had also been raped, also by an uncle, also so young. I tried to make sense of this while standing in the Aegean Sea, freezing, my legs turned purple and numbed but I saw the sun reflect crystalline gold onto the pigments of my skin. I saw all the ways a baptism wouldn’t save me in this human life time.

What does it mean to inhabit, Hannah? What does it mean to inhabit the life space, among organisms, possibilities, war, triumph, gallery shows? What does it mean after you’ve passed, your line break? When he touched me, I felt like the plasticity of chewing gum, rough, burning into my flesh with venomous saliva. Since then my desire to meet death has been intimate, I always feel her neighboring through the avenue of my spinal column which is all marble, all marble since age four, no more bone, no more bone.

When language doesn’t work, we turn to the body, Hannah. Language never worked for the men in my life. It only worked for me by default. Something had to work, something had to work for survival, a poesis of working.

-SOS Series, “if you look at them as gum, you’re always gonna look at them as gum but if you look at them as a metaphor, you can see what she was doing, she said the reason I use gum is because this is what men do to women, they take them in, they chew them up, and they spit them out…she knew herself, she knew how she looked, she knew what she wanted.”

and what if I do not know how I look? What if I’m merely 8 trillion sliced atoms of color plastered against a wall? What if I am non-locatable? Hannah, what do I do? Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do?
Hannah, what do I do, then?

Sincerely yours beyond death-


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Stephanie Hempel is an MFA candidate at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. She is a multi-genre writer, editor, and performance artist. Her writing and art have been published in Saudade Magazine, Guttural Magazine, Osier Root Collective, and Apricity. She is the Co-Founder and Editor-In-Chief of the literary magazine, Tiny Spoon. Visit tinyspoon.org for more information about the journal.

Cover art: Charles Deluvio

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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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