three stories – mathias svalina

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One.

A man wanted to travel to another continent, but he did not have a boat. He read about a series of holes & tunnels & caves that led to the continent to which he wanted to travel. He travelled to the beginning of the path, parked his car, & walked the mile or so to the first hole. This initial hole was filled with mud. He waded through the mud. The hole led to a tunnel of slime. He waded though the slime. The stink sickened him & he propped the neck of his shirt over his nose to try to dampen it, to no avail. The tunnel of slime led to another tunnel, which was dry & generally unremarkable. He walked through this tunnel easily. The dry tunnel led to cave in which there was a lake of fire. He could not pass this lake. Gathering many large rocks, he dropped one into the lake of fire. He stepped on this rock, then dropped another large rock in front of him. He from this second rock he dropped a third rock into the lake of fir & stepped onto that one. He dropped & stepped on another, then another, another. In this way he raveled across half the lake of fire. At this point he took a break. Carrying large rocks is very tiring. He sat on the last rock & drank some lemonade. Then he lay down & took a little nap. In his sleep he had a weird dream of falling upwards into a florescent light, buzzing & flickering. He woke with a bodily convulsion, knocking all his remaining rocks, which were to get him to the other side, into the lake of fire. The knocked-over rocks formed a small island. He tried to pull the rocks out but the heat had melted them together. This was as far as his journey would get him. He built a log cabin on the island. He grew a pleasant garden, both vegetables & flowers. He trained his hounds not to near the lake of fire. He e-lanced & paid all his bills online. On weekends he’d pack a little lunch, put a six-pack in the cooler & spend the whole day fishing on the shore. He didn’t care whether he caught anything. He had grown to love how the fire splashed & rippled when his sinker dropped, how the fire lapped at the stone shore, how little tusks of fire would sometimes pierce through the lake, only to dissipate in the air. But when he did catch a fish, if he could pull it in quickly enough, it was each time already fully cooked by the lake of fire, the flesh flaky & delicious.

Two.

My sister is a pilot. I am her co-pilot. We are preparing to fly a plane across the ocean. The plane sits on the runway as we wait for the air traffic controllers to give us our commands. A bunch of boys climb into the cockpit. They play marbles. They play kick the can. They play stickball with a rubber ball, causing the ball to bounce around the cockpit every time they hit it. One boy eats some sloppy spaghetti out of his cupped hands. He sits between me & my sister. As he eats the sloppy spaghetti, he toggles the switches. I tell him he can’t do that, but he does not listen. I offer him a bowl for his spaghetti. He ignores me. The ignition switch is covered with tomato sauce. My sister leans into the microphone & says We were cleared to take off. Her voice emerges from the speakers tinny & distorted. I flip the ignition switch on & start doing flying stuff. The plane rolls down the runway. It lifts into the air. It increases in speed, until are in full throttle. We reach cruising speed, but all this time, the plane has remained only ten feet above the ground, shaking the cars & trucks below us on the highway. I turn to my sister, the pilot. We are dead, aren’t we? I ask. This is how the dead live, isn’t it? I take my headset off & walk to the door of the cockpit, & look over the seats. Everyone in the plane is dead. All but one teenaged girl with long black hair. She is alive & seated next to my mother’s dead body. Sara, I say to the teenaged girl & tears roll down my face. I grab the boy eating spaghetti. He is a man now, his face covered by decades of dried tomato sauce. He is my husband & I am his. When I look at him again, he is old, his knuckles gone mutable & nutty with arthritis. I point to the girl with black hair, still teenaged, still the only one alive. O, I say to my husband. O, how our Sara has grown.

Three.

A woman could not tell the difference between babies & sticks. As her friends became adults & began to have babies, she became a popular party game. One friend would hold his baby in one hand & a stick in the other, then ask the woman which was which. Half the time she guessed correctly. One day the woman found herself ready to give birth to a baby. At the hospital the doctor ducked beneath the woman’s gowned knees to check on things. When the doctor stood back up, his arms had transformed into large plastic spray bottles, filled with blue glass cleaner. I do not want you to deliver my baby with spray-bottle-arms, the woman said. They will injure the baby’s pliable skull & glass cleaner will irritate the skin. Another doctor was ordered but at he did his doctor stuff, his arms turned into plastic mastodon dolls. I do not want you to deliver my baby with plastic-mastodon-arms, the woman said. They will scar my baby’s soft skin & make her afraid of the world she is entering. Again doctor was ordered. When this doctor stood up from beneath the woman’s gowned knees, one of the doctor’s arms had transformed into a good-sized stick & the other had transformed into a fresh & healthy baby, flecked with afterbirth & screaming. The woman looked back & forth from one arm to the other, trying to figure out which one was the baby. She made her decision & took that one home. She kept the one she took home in a crib & each morning she sang their favorite song as she changed their diapers & fed them formula. The song is called “Buffalo Stance” by the musician Neneh Cherry. It is a very good song.

 

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Mathias Svalina is the author of five books, most recently The Wine-Dark Sea from Sidebrow Books. He is a founding editor of Octopus Books & runs a Dream Delivery Service. 

Photo: Sarah Penney

falling – dakota drake

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The planes at the airport would fly over, land, and take off every day, and the sky would be full of noise. Next door to the high barbed fences surrounding the tarmac, there was a small house where a man and his dog lived. The house where the man and the dog lived would shake and shiver with the sound of planes attempting to break the sound barrier all day and all night. Despite the thunderous exclamations of flight that rattled windowpanes and made the very floorboard vibrate like a bass drum, the man, and the dog, barely noticed.

They were so surrounded in this cloud of constant noise that they both went about their business every day without really hearing the difference between silence and thrumming engines. Neither their daily routines, nor their nightly sleep was affected in the least.
Both slept well under a curtain of stars and diesel, and every day they ate small meals in each other’s company.

The man ate the small meals because he bought small bags of groceries, which was all that he could carry on his bike from the grocery store to the house. The dog ate small meals because that is what the man fed the dog. The dog looked up at the man sometimes while the man dug a very small handful of dry food out of a paper bag to put in the dog’s little bowl, watching him, wondering if today was the day that more food would be in the bowl. Sometimes. But the dog was mostly used to eating a small amount, and never whined or drooled for more.

The planes flew over all night, between the man and the dog and the edge of space. Both of the dwellers of the house slept well on their half-full stomachs and dreamt half-full dreams, and woke refreshed each day.

One day the airport shut down. All the flights were stopped. The sky was still, free of other people’s itineraries and combustion engines. And the sounds of wind, and birds, and rain, and quietude were free to return.

The change was sudden. The man noticed as soon as he came home from work. That night, no amount of rolling around the bed or flipping his pillow could allow him to get to sleep. The dog walked from room to darkened room, wondering at what was no longer there. In the daylight, when the man spoke to the dog in the newly quiet house, the words hitting the air startled them. The man took to whispering so as to not disturb them both.

The dog didn’t care for the clipping noise that his nails made against the floor and decided to live on the couch or bathroom rug. Until dinner time that is, when he forgot as soon as the kibble rang like a bell in his little bowl.

The man took to grinding his teeth in his sleep, and the dog started scratching at fleas that were not there.

“No, it’s not a strange request at all!” said the realtor.

The next house that the man and the dog quickly moved to was on a busy street. The house was filled with other people’s sounds: car doors, backfiring engines, clanging pots and pans at a nearby restaurant kitchen, children before they had learned about the power of decibels in their own lungs.

The man failed to convince himself that the bass from a nearby movie theater was actually a plane breaking the sound barrier over and over again. The aggression and suddenness in the noises was so demanding of the man’s attention that sometimes he forgot to feed the dog for an hour or two, which caused the dog to begin to whine and drool.

The dog was tired from racing from wall to wall, to the window, to the front door, to the back, in order to find the source of all the noises. When he slept, he dreamt of chasing nothing for miles and miles, through the sky. The man did not dream at all, because he was not sleeping. Neither the man nor the dog woke refreshed.

“I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you. Would you mind turning down the music on your end? … Oh, oh I’m sorry, I thought it was yours.” Said the realtor.

“It will be a change of pace to be sure.” Said the realtor about the next house. The house was out in the country, where the stars were only slightly visible under a canopy of spindly pine trees.

The ancient house created its own noises, anything from the scuttle of mouse feet in the attic, to groans of centuries-old boards. Most sounds went unexplained for generations.

The man and the dog took walks together in the forest around the house. Branches snapped out of sight. Leaves crunched underfoot. Huge crows sat in the trees above them and laughed harsh and grating. The man and the dog paused, shivered, and turned back on the path to the house, less interested in the beauty of nature than suddenly remembering that if something sinister happened to them, there was no one for miles to find out.

The dog sneezed over and over at the dust and the pine needles. The man listened to the lonely old house sway and whine and held the allergic dog close to him. The man’s heart beat as fast as when it was quiet as when he heard something.

The dog coughed too hard to sleep, and the man lay awake thinking about every book or movie he’d ever read or seen about haunted houses, from Nancy Drew to Scooby Doo. Bodies in the walls and whatnot. Haunted forests surrounding you on all sides. Families gone to ruin for generations, wandering shadowed hallways. Cobwebs. Ghosts. Scooby Snacks. Then—

Small footsteps. Clawing at the window. A hiss.

“Yes, possums are very common there.” The realtor explained, trying so hard not to laugh that tears rolled down her cheeks like rainwater off a roof. “I’ll get you someone to fix the window.”

Temporarily the man and the dog moved to another forest, into a house that had once been used for early settlers and pioneers, then forest rangers.

“Rustic!” read the listing that the realtor had hesitantly sent the man. The man and the dog looked at each other. Mostly the man looked at the dog, because the dog’s eyes were too red and watery from allergies too see much.

The man rode his bike to check out the house with the dog trotting happily beside him on a leash, his snout finally clearing a bit. The bike left wet lines on the grass when they rode around the many hikers and tourists that they shared the path with.

As the two got closer to the house, a low hissing sound could be heard. It grew louder as they neared, into a quiet rumble. It was like holding your ear to someone’s stomach, and feeling as much as hearing the unseen churning inside.

The little house was close enough to the famous waterfalls that mist had created droplets of water on the windows. They ran down the glass as though it was constantly raining on one side of the house. Once inside the humid little home, the roar of the falls was still audible, but contained.

That first night, whenever the man spoke to the dog in soothing tones between doses of allergy meds, neither felt that the sound of his voice was intrusive. The voice was softened, the edges rounded off.

One fresh and bright day, the man and the dog went out onto the trail to the falls. The muddy track climbed slowly over rough switchbacks along the cliffs to make the steep slope easier to navigate.

The man stopped in a clearing to watch a hawk glide downwards from the top of the falls slowly, close enough the see it turn its head back and forth. The breeze picked up, blowing in a mist like a veil separating the man and the dog from the rest of the world.

The dog sat in the cool mud, smelling water, and rocks, and the fish that fought the current, and the sandwiches in the backpacks of nearby hikers.

Enveloped in mist and sunlight, the man and the dog became wavelengths of sound themselves, allowing the wet air to permeate their beings. They too were the continuous noise of a burly river that had been falling off the world for as long as there had been rocks and water and had always filled the atmosphere with its laughter.

The man did not at first notice the dog stand up and walk off sharply, pulling the leash out of his hand. Above the gush of falls, he could then just hear the sound of barking.

Instantly pulled out of his reverie, he turned and called for the dog. The dog kept running and barking ahead on the path that lead down to the river near the bottom of the falls. He followed alarmed, sliding in the mud through switchbacks, running back through the forest.

He met the bank of the river at a break in the trees. He found the dog, front feet in the cold water, barking as hard as a dog could at something across the river. The man lunged and grabbed the leash, trying to pull the dog out on the bank, but the dog would not budge. Finally, the man looked up at what the dog was now howling at, and nearly dropped the leash again.

Across the river, another man was climbing up the low cliff face. Long sinewy limbs reached and stretched to find narrow holds against slippery rock.

He reached, he reached, and he slipped. And fell.

The man and the dog ran and dove into the powerful current, kicking against boulders. They tumbled in the waves and came up with nostrils burning, sinuses full of icy water.

The man found and grabbed at the climber, barely holding onto a half-submerged tree, struggling to pull himself above the tumultuous surface. The dog was tumbling past them and the man just barely managed to reach out and grab the dog by a grabbing his back leg and pulling him onto the tree. The man had the climber hold onto his back and held the dog under one arm as he swam the three of them downstream and back to the shore.

The man and the dog coughed and vomited up fishy water on the gravel bank. The climber simply rolled onto his side and passed out.

Later that day at the hospital, the man and the dog sat in the climber’s room where it was never silent but never loud either. Machines, and nurses’ shoes on the tile, and the distant arguments of families, and the groans of the sick.

No one questioned the man about the dog. He did have to answer questions about the climber, which he was surprised to realize he knew nothing about.

That surprise was a bit of a surprise in itself. Why should he feel like he knew this man? It’s just some guy doing a stupid stunt on a cliff, of course he didn’t know anything about him. There was no reason to still feel protective after saving him, no reason to stay in the room waiting for him to awake. He never thought about leaving the room however.

When the climber awoke, the dog leapt on the bed, rubbing mud all into the sheets and his wet snout all over the climber’s beard. The man finally got a chance to ask the climber about being surprised, about being surprised at being surprised, and finally asking him his name. The climber smiled weakly, before answering. His chest hurt from the ice water and the CPR, but he wanted to talk anyway.

The climber drove them all back to the little house in the forest, stopping first at the grocery store in his car to buy food to cook for dinner, as a thank you for saving his life.

After dinner, the climber poured the dog’s food himself, a huge bowl full of goopy wet meat chunks from a can. The dog ate the food hard that his teeth hit the bottom of the bowl. Both the man and the dog’s stomachs were full for the first time in a very long time.

The climber poured a very large glass of wine for both himself and the man. The gentle cling of the glasses together sounded as right, just as their laughter with the backdrop of the roaring falls did as well.

That night, the dog climbed onto the bed to sleep in the valley of blankets between the man and the climber. There was no room there at first, both men fitting so snugly together in sleep, but the dog was determined and wedged himself in until there was a dog-shaped space for him too. He rested his snout first on the climber’s scratchy beard, then on the man’s chest. The only things that could be heard above the sound of the falls was their quiet breaths, and the warm sound of heartbeats.

 

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Dakota Drake is a woodland creature living in the desert. She does AcroYoga all the time, reads often, and sometimes makes art. Eventually she will buy a wasteland and devote her life to making it into a lush rainforest, one tree at a time.

 

Photo: Martin Adams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

three poems – nate fisher

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Haunt

Nobody is loading a shotgun because
the hardware store has accused nobody
of illegal dumping. The cul de sac
is absent of a shape tearing beer cans
in half, a voice swaddled to empty lung
by a winter night,
nobody screaming
is this what you want is this what you want

The airedale terrier across the alley
no longer labors in breathing.
Most passerbys begin to wave back,
say to the new neighbor, once
there was a ghost here. For real.
I saw it there. And there.

The rumor is that nobody would sit motionless
in a black sedan overnight during the freeze,
open french doors in the morning as if
they were clearing brush from a trail,
and walk their knife around the block.

The mountain hemlock that lined the sidewalk
didn’t hurt nobody, but nobody blamed them anyway.
The houses shawled in yellows and pinks
didn’t hurt nobody, but nobody haunted them anyway.
The basement nobody lived in was a mausoleum
the size of a father. The good man who used to live
there was smothered in his sleep during the wildfires.

Some say he lives again, drinks iced tea while mowing,
always looks like he wants to apologize to strangers.
He rolls the garbage out, stands there, listens
to the neighbors walking up and down the stairs.

 

DIY Wishing Machine

Set aside several empty drawers,
so many of those little coffins,
a whole chest of them.
Unscrew a pair of cymbals from that drum kit
you never bothered learning to play.
The wiring won’t have to be up to code,
but blockade your front door before proceeding.

Fill drawers with those letters and photographs
you refuse to throw away. Contemplate
an eventual stillness for every hand
responsible for making them. Place
drawers stacked inside a dark closet
to let them breathe. Attach positive terminal
to top cymbal, negative to bottom.
Find a cassette recorder that hasn’t
been touched for at least twenty years,
and begin recording over whatever tape
is inside without reviewing it first.
Form a wired connection as follows:
cymbals to recorder to closet.

Lie flat, place head between two cymbals.
Concentrate on the most hidden of all things.
Invisible thing. Colorless thing. Allow
no harshness of the face. Raise your right hand,
and begin the first stroke of an autopsy.
Donate to a tax-deductible charity organization.
Raise your left and build a palace of mirrors.
Do not be alarmed if you hear the sound
of an engine turning over, or a quarry
full of dynamite. There, that point of light,
be distracted by it instead. Your memory
will snow. Watch your footing. One thing
and another are now colored things.

You can now allow yourself to be afraid.
Your liver is failing. Your children will
have a twenty-five percent chance of being born
with a rare congenital disorder. Nobody will ever
raise a toast to you again. Feel this sink in
and harden into the trunk of the body, you beautiful
son of a gun. Goddamn, you’re looking so fine,
you have any plans tonight, sweetness?

Do not turn yourself down or stand yourself up.
Politely reschedule if necessary. Raise
your left leg; make note of the prophecy
that arrives to mind later. Raise your right,
and ignore this instruction. Something’s here
or just beginning to hear. Thinking thing.
Wishing thing. Marry your genitals to beauty.
Keep in time with the lub-lub, lub-lub that now
heaves into the cymbals. Dwell here. Move everything
from your apartment into this space. Tidy up.

Wait for a shortness of breath, and then speak.

 

Speaking to the Lady of the Lake at the Koi Pond in Moscow City Park, Idaho (2:30 AM)

Moths can smell the kind of drunk that likes
to wander
through the baking streetlamps

and the figure rising from the water

says                                          lend me a mirror

i say                   no because you’re going to say
this is a dead mother thing
like every other dead mother
thing i fill drawers with: binoculars,
pocket magnifying glass from a sewing kit,
widowed spectacles; which, if you wear,
do feel removed somehow

says        let me initiate your sojourn
                                               or whatever it is
                                               you need women to do

i say                     i’m not looking for healing
i’m not going to try and heal you
no offense

says                none taken

i say                     my secrets are limited to
knowing the moths must be
cold tonight and
it’s slowing them down.

i’m
slowed down.

says you make jokes in the morning

i say                    yeah

says you’re very intent on staying out of that drawer

i say                   stranger things are happening

says tell me about it

and brushes her hair with a heron’s beak

i think about cold wings going colder
and my favorite doorways
the ones i had to stop in
to reach back, take the temperature
of the threshold

i say                  do you mind if i crash here

says i want to hear a joke in the morning

i say                  me too

and lean into my coat collar
drifting, but thinking
a moth walks into a bar
and can smell the wander on itself.

 

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 Nat(e) Fisher is a poet, musician, and educator from rural southern Illinois. He graduated with his MFA in Poetry from the University of Idaho-Moscow in 2016 and currently teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University.

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Photo: Wil Amani

las lobas – lisa tellor kelley

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Women transform into wolves
and drink Shiraz made from smoke
and blackberries. They cut red
meat close to the bone, untie the forgotten,
strong warriors, burn gentle wild fires
and spread angel bait around before laying
down to sleep. They shelter the young
females from being stunned and eaten
and make them strong. Women

run with wolves and follow
a path straight to their soul
where their spirit connects
and nurtures the earth. With their souls
they listen to their mission
story. They write it

bone against bone, braid it
into hair, intermingle it into their war
cries rippling gentle and stern
from this wild, endangered species

 

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Bio: Lisa is the 2015 State of Illinois Emerging Writer of poetry. Currently, she is a lecturer of English composition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and teaches creative writing at Lindenwood University Belleville-Illinois.  Lisa is the “name giver” of the River Bluff Review journal.  She is published in journals such as OVS-Organs of Voice & Speech, River Bluff Review, and Rhino.

 

Photo: Tahoe Beetschen 

three poems – j.c. reilly

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Tempest

On the pier at Hawley Arm,
their legs hanging over the edge,
the sisters watch a storm
punch its way from the west.

As the bruised clouds spread,
the air, thick and woolen all day,
shifts and trembles. The lake
blackens in response, while gators,

like logs, sink beneath the surface,
ripples vanishing almost instantly.
A pelican on a cypress stump
takes fright, takes flight, its white

feathers a momentary erasure
of the sky’s embittered indigo.
The sisters ought to go in; a storm
like that can bludgeon a body with hail

faster than they can run the quarter-
mile to the house, but they know
what they will find there: broken hearts,
broken hearts, faded magnolias.

A Syllable, a Dove

A dove drops from your mouth,
round and fat at my feet.

I pick it up, my hands a bowl
for its milk-white body;

it trembles but does not flinch
its gaze. Shell-pink beak sings

of what you could never speak:
your wish to find a sky

unspooling with clouds
of loss, of wind crystal time,

of desire that pelts like sleet.
Song complete, the dove lifts

into the air: your voice on wings,
Goodbye falling, a forgotten feather.

Proverb

In my dream, a bride visits
a blue crystal rotunda, where

an elephant lives in sequins and silks.
If it looks at her with its left eye,

her marriage will be happy,
but only as long as the reach

of wild lemongrass. If it stares
with its right, the couple’s first

thousand days will be as the endless
mangrove, thick with an underscrub

of despair. But should it fix her
squarely with both eyes, blessings

will fall like a shower of silver
rupees on the bride and groom

till they drown, drown—
and the elephant drowns, to bestow such joy.

 

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JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work.  She lives with three cats, one of whom is a Communist. When she isn’t writing, she plays tennis or works on improving her Italian. Follow her @aishatonu on Twitter or jc.reilly on Instagram.

 

Photo: Luca Carrà

i am from a lie – nicki quinn

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I am from a lie
From a sad truth that turned into a lie
I am from a place of sadness and depression
I am from a rose that cuts and tears your flesh
I am from a tree of death and darkness
From hell itself
I am from the sex gone wrong
From a waste of time and slavery
I’m from a trench that was dug for me
I’m from Hawaii. A beautiful place
From Hawaii, and a state of regret
From a mother that was a teen
I’m from a sex addict
From a woman wanting to be an owner

 

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Bio: Nicki Quinn is an idea. The main thing to know is that she seems to be one thing but sometimes is another. It all depends on the day, mood, and time.

Photo: Buzz Andersen

four poems – amee nassrene broumand

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Pacific Northwest Gothic

Wires coil within the muddy deep.

Apples thump
upon the ground. Midday dark
becomes bloody murk at dusk,
the hush of streets swallowed whole.

In the kitchen with the red drapes,
she binges cake in the dark.
Mother howls upstairs, upset
by the low & bellow
of the train.

Beaks flicker in the rail yards,
soon to roost by the cold slaps
of the Columbia.

 

Fallout

A rose torn from the ground
rushes downstream in the dark—
from my window I hear
roaring.

Night erupts into feasts & fireflies
& convivial ankles. Electric wheels burst
behind the waterfall—

the year crests down,
a fierce swan about to strike.

Moths thump upon a shuttered pane.
Blood ebbs.
Gulls & sandpipers mourn upon the harbor.
The skies morph into bleared chalkboards—
bang the erasers together & watch the dust rise,
snow bubbling in November’s tumult.

Douglas firs sprawl in the ochre light & howl.

Livid thunderheads—
the city flutters off the earth,
a gleaming kite into the void.
Noise bites my spine, taking hold.

I pause—

the radiant umbrella
sweeps overhead & closes. My skin

falls away, clumps of wet sand. I erode
running through the noise—

everything’s violet.

 

Opal’s Chatterbox

the decaying storefront evokes the suburbs I recall the pangs of spring magnolia trees still erupt in fleshy blooms purple wounds among long & spiky bones the greening of the year passes into the clouds skeletons rumble in a drawer with feathers & a honeycomb ghost until I throw it all away dust of marrow & pine sap eggshells years unspool widening the gap between us bicycle tracks snake through cement like casts of fossilized vertebrae gathering raindrops into mirrors for drowning swallows bound gagging they fade too the drums & the cages there was once a field on the way home where a barn rotted & rotted until the spine gave way & the roof fell—no I don’t have a photograph

Hydrothermal Vent

City street. The ocean bubbles through
a fissure in the tar. No one notices.

A woman leaps from a taxi—
a scribbled sheet, crumpled, falls from her lap
to the olive sea,
unfolding. On the corner

a hypnotic anesthetist grins over fistfuls of balloons.

Nine minutes later a paper child
climbs from the sea, up
through the road
& catches a trouser leg
to the taxi.

 

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Amee Nassrene Broumand is an Iranian-American poet from the Pacific Northwest. Nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in FIVE: 2:ONE, Sundog Lit, A-Minor Magazine, Empty Mirror, Menacing Hedge, Barren Magazine, Word Riot, & elsewhere. She served as the March 2018 Guest Editor for Burning House Press. Find her on Twitter @AmeeBroumand.

 

Photo: José Martín Ramírez C

death valley – paul ilechko

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Clubfoot bravado
in seventies cheesecloth

he curses as the freighter
pulls away         his heavy

stare reflects a hatred
for all things golden

he lives for concrete
he lives for the hot

black ribbon beneath
a desert sun       a locked-in

world of tinted windshields
and leather plumage

rejoicing in the dialogue
between metal and stone

a voice that oscillates
across the valley

till twilight falls
and the new-found stars

weep again for the madness
of his remembering.

 

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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, formercactus, Sheila-Na-Gig, Marsh Hawk Review and Rockvale Review. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.

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Photo by David Everett Strickler

two poems – bruce mcrae

7_Paranoid

Tugging On The Invisible
It’s in the Great Subtraction where the takers reside.
Their houses are without doorways and walls.
They’ve removed the light from their windows.
In their lives something vital is missing.

The takers, whether you’re fleeing out of Babylon
or staring down a sewer pipe
or rounding up your Christmas chickens –
they’re there, but in and of themselves solely.

Sometimes it’s a seat on the bus or last of the cornbread.
At other times it’s a kidney or a faint breath,
the takers only too pleased to shift the unmovable,
to create an aching from absence.

What began as a fist has turned into a finger.
From beginning to end, our lives are dreamed into being.

 

Banished
Bundle-of-lint, get back into your cubbyhole,
into your linen drawer, your kettle of fish heads.
To the seeping wound from whence thou came.

Silk-purse-out-of-a-sow’s-ear,
get back down into your hole of holes.
Return to the smirking mouth of the salamander.
To the bottom of your olive jar.
To the glove compartment of a burning sedan.

Mister-face-like-a-slapped-backside –
exit with the staged play’s walk-on mob.
Back to your shallow-dug grave in the woods.
Return to your shoebox hidden under the bed.
To your gouged hill scarred with aircraft debris.

Go, and never trouble this existence again.
And may your shadow never cross another’s.

 

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Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,400 poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

 

Photo: Mikhail Shchupak-Katsman

two poems – juliet cook & j/j hastain

BABY_INTHEOVEN

Slumber Party
Stained teeth fall out
of the clouds,
start a thunder storm
of unforeseen fonts
writing their own love stories

while they crash and sink
themselves into drainage.

Wash them down to the bottom
of the ocean or keep them
as encrusted cheese maps
at the bottom of the oven.

Use them as part of a magazine ad photo
of Sylvia Plath inspired undergarments.

How many sadistic photo shoots
will fit into this board game
inspired by sharp, rattling molars
or carnivorous harps?

These teeth won’t burn in the crematorium
so you’ll have to hang them
out to dry alongside the laundry you just pulled out
of the washer, your mama’s old shirt
and fingerless gloves.

Fingernails hidden in the glove box
alongside a toy gun
that needed a friend.

 

Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach

A conduit or a tiny giant. I wanted to name him but stopped
myself from outreach. Focused on outflow
instead. I listened to his atonal stingers
and began to develop my own melodic pulse.

Tiny eyeballs could be shooting stars.
Tiny tears in the feedback loop
could be resources
and the leeches slip out

of our shit-
eating grins
as we grimace and steal milkshakes
from the food carts outside
the municipal court.
We’re going to start a riot
in which we suck the leeches out of the straws
and fling them at those who think they should be in control
of our blood. We’ve got a lot to show them

about blood. It can’t be owned. And it always
wins when combined into our home-
made flavors of farm fresh ice cream.

Last night, my abdomen felt so bloated
I thought I was going to explode like a giant cow.
Meaning tiny can turn into huge with one explosion.
Meaning expansion is meant to be.

 

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j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

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: Megan Tate