smokin’ in the alleyway
moonlit dancin’ shoes
garlic ginger waltz
old man in the dining hall
says it’s not his fault
cursed if you go out to play
blessed if you stay home
stingin’ nettle song
bright eyed baby lookin’ up
wonderin’ what went wrong
Brett Randell is a writer and musician who loves to play in regular venues, on rooftops, at yoga festivals, in bars, living rooms, and beyond. He is currently working on a novel while part of The Book Project at The Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop. Brett’s writing has appeared in Stain’d Magazine, Interkors, and The Blue Lake Review.
This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry, “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.
especially after the last time
our pizza was made by hand
sanitizer, but I believe in second
toppings & chances. I wear my mask
covered with butterflies & wonder
if the young man in the next car
chuckles at me for taking that chance
in nature-filled protection
while he has no fabric for his mouth.
I don’t want to speak for him
as a ventriloquist but I am uneasy
& worried out here in my sky
watching for birds & clouds
& the coming storm that may
or may not happen. Of course
this is me daydreaming
of last year where every surface
was immaculate as we drift
together in a winged migration
back inside. I have to admit
I have cash to pay with & can
include a nice tip as I also have time
to embrace this time. We all can
wait outside together as three birds
swoop in a motion many never do.
After the cashier hands me my pizzas
in their warm boxes, I can pause
one more time here searching
to remember when I offered change
or leftover food to anyone as a cardinal
stops for a discarded crust.
Dennis Etzel Jr. lives in Topeka, Kansas with Carrie and the boys where he teaches English at Washburn University. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.
I sat on the curb of the laundromat, squishing ants between my fingers, checking my phone every few minutes. Heat simmered in the asphalt parking lot, tangible and sticky, rose through the curb and my cut-offs, and the still air gave no relief – but at least the air and sky made me imagine I could be free, instead of sticking to the plastic chairs inside the laundromat, the heavy air perfumed with detergent, weighing me down like Dorothy in the field just outside of the Emerald City, bewitched. The trail of ants, immune like most non-humans to human tribulations, continued to wind through the grubby building, little specks of black on the gritty tile, occasionally detoured by a hairband gathering dust, by a crumb of detergent.
Before I moved to this neighborhood, to West Campus, I had a washer and dryer in my house, on the second floor. A shelf for the detergent. White bottles of bleach and periwinkle bottles of fabric softener. I would fold my boyfriend’s underwear neatly, into a Kon-Mari square, then crinkle it into a ball and shove it into his underwear drawer. I wasted a lot of time that way.
People began to leave the church across San Gabriel, tossing themselves through the thin wooden doors. It wasn’t a real church; it wasn’t a building that was built to be a church. Groups rented it out for swing-dancing or student group meetings or birthday parties. A mom and dad holding a baby in a mauve outfit and an older couple, white-haired, holding onto each other, picked across the uneven sidewalk to wait at the crosswalk.
In the other direction, crossing 24th, just one block away from Lamar, from the hill that rolls down to kiss it on both sides, from the no-left-turn sign ignored by students and state workers and bikers in their tight rubber uniforms, in this direction was a corner store. It had tried to fashion itself after the corner taquerias you could find off of Rundberg or North Lamar or Stassney, but this particular iteration felt tidier and less real. Its clientele consisted of students, mostly, who lived in the new high rise building that stood over the store like a bully with his knees on your shoulders, pinning you down, making you feel like nothing and like the most important thing. I always thought college students seemed to like that feeling.
Then the light changed and the traffic on 24th slowed to a stop and the students crossed from the corner store and the churchgoers crossed from the building-that-wasn’t-a-church, and a woman on a bike in a Jimmy John’s uniform flew through the intersection, platinum-haired, bright-haired, hair wispy at the edges but thick in the middle, the kind of hair you’d like to pull, the kind of hair you’d like to wrap around your wrists, tie into knots, and she stuck her tongue out, radical, loud, unapologetic, and she cut through the laundromat parking lot to avoid the light. She never once stopped moving. She rolled through the steaming asphalt and cut back across San Gabriel, and then probably to MLK and Nueces to pick up her next delivery.
She is an anarchist, marches with Antifa, covers her face during rallies. Some of them have automatic rifles slung across their shoulders, bobbing next to their heads like scorpion tails, but she holds the pole which lifts the Trump piñata above the crowd, throws matches. I can see is her hands, soft and brown, I want to feel the tips of her manicured nails dig into my wrists, pointy and orange. She has stuffed her hair into a skullcap, but I can see it spraying out against the nape of her neck like mist from a wave, crashing on a rock.
We live in a house, one of those wild houses with five bedrooms and six roommates, the guy who sleeps on the couch and pays fifty dollars in rent, the feral cats coming to the back door to drink water and catch spiders, the fundraiser parties for top surgeries, for bail, for car repairs. Her favorite drink is gin, an angry drink. Harsh. Leaves you with a burn, a headache. Painful and sweet, going down. She wipes her wet hands on her black jeans.
My phone alarm went off and I checked my laundry: wet. I hadn’t done the wash in months. It had been too hot. I had been too tired. I had collected piles of t-shirts and bras, the black pants I had to wear to work, the polo shirts stained with spaghetti sauce and wine. The smell of the laundromat unsteadied me, the room went dizzy.
Our room in the house is the smallest one. Small – but we don’t have to share. The central air isn’t connected to this room, so we leave the fan on, we rent a window unit from the Rent-a-Center next to the HEB on Springdale. Keep the door closed, so when we come home after our shifts, peel the red and black polyester away from our wet skin, we lay naked on our bed, right in the line of fire from the air blast, and I kiss the cold, hard tips of her toes like peanuts.
I like the delivery job, more than the waitressing I used to do. I like the bike, the heat, the sunshine. I like speeding through intersections, like puzzles, my body the missing piece. I like the hill down Windsor, where it crashes into Lamar and then recoils back into a different road, into 24th, where the students start buzzing out of apartments and corner stores and pubs, I like to imagine what they must look like from the sky. Ants, crawling toward an agreed-upon ending.
There weren’t ants in my apartment, but roaches, tiny roaches creeping up through the carpet, crawling through electric sockets. I lived in a furnished apartment around the corner, down San Gabriel. I cleaned the dingy windows, but no sunlight ever came in.
Robin Lanehurst grew up in St. Louis, MO and is currently writing from Houston, Texas where they live with their wife and a small menagerie of pets. They am white, neurodiverse, and identify as queer and gender non-binary. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Coe Review, Apricity Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Re:Fiction, and More Queer Families.
Rebecca Hannigan is a fiction writing in Denver who also plays music every. now and then. She studied environmental science, but enjoys social science and general social interactions. You can find her serving food at the vegan hotspot in town, or at https://rebeccahannigan.wordpress.com/. She’s always happy to make friends, or to just talk about anything worth talking about. Feel free to follow her on various platforms @rwehappyigan.
First, election day, and then
not so strange being close in bed
but first being strange
but not being in bed
being in body kind;
being slow, being not hurried for pleasure
being not at all the fantasie in men’s eyes;
being two, but not us, we
being lips, being breasts,
being you, being me, the bed being round,
plunging line of winter being one,
careful we, cutting away what is death.
Not even necessary, love
but there is love
and earlier there was my sadness for summer again
and the black dog chewed a squirrel
winter people crawled into tin holes.
Election day, I choose you, choose me, choose you
and earlier, the old woman wheeled to the polling place by her son,
a great book in her lap
fat boy in a green jacket, sparrow on a black roof
orange room very dry
but not dry, very lonely
but not lonely
only the blue jay
only the blue jay pecking on the window
not flying but then flying
from the black roof
not hearing my own voice loving for a long time
and then not even necessary, love,
not so strange being close in bed
but first being strange
being in body kind
falling through the fruits of winter
cutting away what is death
Susan Zeni wants her poems to tell the stories of people living on the margins of society. She lived in Manhattan on Avenue A, in Chinatown and in Harlem for five years, Seattle for ten, and is now ensconced back in the Midwest after years of teaching community college. Publications and honors include a Lucille Medwick Award for a poem with an humanitarian theme, “Black Angel,” published in the New York Quarterly, danced by the Erick Hawkins dance troupe, and read up on stage with Gwendolyn Brooks; a Seattle Weekly portrait of Ralph and Mary moved out of their Second Avenue Hotel digs by the Seattle Art Museum; and “The Street Walker’s Guide to Wealth,”recently published by the Minneapolis StarTribune.
Susan gets her kicks playing accordion, having been in a number of bands, including the Polkastra and the all grrrl klezmer band, the Tsatskelehs, as well as performing solo at local art openings, Quaker events, and farmers’ markets.
Bill Wolak has just published his eighteenth book of poetry entitled All the Wind’s Unfinished Kisses with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared as cover art for such magazines as Phoebe, Harbinger Asylum, Baldhip Magazine, Barfly Poetry Magazine, Ragazine, Cardinal Sins, Pithead Chapel, The Wire’s Dream, Thirteen Ways Magazine, Phantom Kangaroo, Rathalla Review, Free Lit Magazine, Typehouse Magazine, and Flare Magazine.
He’s only as secure as his tiny-cocked insecurities,
Two people, and there’s no individual between them.
Her mouth, her voice open merely as her legs are to whomever,
His thoughts, emotions hidden away in his pants,
Public miseducation, sexual oppression, violent obsessions.
Her place in the world limited to be the size of her ass,
His place condensed to be the size of his balls,
Social roles, miscommunication replicating genitalia.
Herself not seen through beauty’s blinding light of her face,
Himself not there, a cro-magnon autonomy.
Venus and Mars fall from the Heavens by earthly malice.
Ian Williams is a poet, musician, singer-songwriter, and sideshow performer from Denver, Colorado. Ian performs in local groups such as Caltrops, the sideshow-swing band Open Casket Revival and performs solo acts under the moniker Tantrik Nihilist. Primarily he is known as a multi-instrumentalist, lyricist, and songwriter. Having had scarce appearances in smaller publications years ago he is less known for what he feels are his finest works. This writer is looking forward to establishing themselves not only as the poet they’ve been for the last fifteen years, but for the poet they’ll be in future years and the poet he’ll be until his death.
A long time ago, Ann Marie Sekeres went to art school and learned to paint. She showed a bit around New York in the 90s, but didn’t get where she wanted to be, but did become a very happy museum and nonprofit publicity director and started a family. She found out about the procreate drawing app from an illustrator she hired, stole her kid’s iPad and has been drawing every day since. Follow her work at @annmarieprojects on Instagram.
Dani Ferrara is a poet, writing teacher, and self-proclaimed ‘pataphysician. She proudly graduated with an MFA from the School of Disembodied Poetics alongside some of the most incredible writers she’s ever met. Her work has been featured in Dream Pop Press and Black Sun Lit. She is in three garage bands: Warm Dad, Bad Bath, and The Spellmans. She is also part of the extended Black Market Translation Orchestra. Dani lives in Denver. [Daniferrarapoet.com]