miscarriage in train car #4 – lauren napier

letoh

The salt of embryo and ocean
The grounding of the shoreline and rubber tread
Here is where true nature is seen
Here is where fleshly goodbyes are said

Parallel lines in a hotel room
A parallel universe unfolding within a surreal frame
Enfolded in two familiar arms
Embracing again for the first time
Renewal – the act of letting go

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Inspired by all forms of energy and art, lauren.napier takes comfort in the written word and in creative performance. She lives within a lush realm of bittersweet melodies and phrases alongside her black feline, her guitar, and typewriter. Wherever lauren might be, her work may be found online at punkrockdoll.com or followed upon instagram.

Photo: Jonathan Pielmayer

two poems – sandra santos

santos

have you ever asked a butterfly
if flying once transformed is hard
and how much weight is lost meanwhile
the wasteful creaking of the world’s skin
the copious slash on a piece of blow
pushing your smile through the night
— you belated hour end a cycle
music is the dawn
you trace in my way of surrendering to sleep
the remembrance that fills my heart with a sudden longing
to have you here someday
lightly
unveiling the beauty
of our flight
that heads to silence.

nunca perguntaste a uma borboleta
se lhe custa voar quando transformada
qual o peso largado no voo
e é custoso o ranger de pele do mundo
o corte copioso sobre um pedaço de sopro
movendo o teu sorriso pela noite
— ó hora tardia que findas um ciclo
a música é a aurora
que traças no modo de me abrir ao sono
a lembrança que traz ao peito um súbito desejo
de te ter aqui um dia
já leve
desvendando a beleza
do nosso voo
rumo ao silêncio.

if I were a dagger
I would drop
the blade
every day
on the wet grass
until it came back
in blossom.

se eu fosse um punhal
deixaria cair
a lâmina
todos os dias
na erva molhada
até ela regressar
em flor.

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Sandra Santos is a poet, teacher, writer, and translator from Portugal born in 1994. She holds a B.A. in Languages and International Relations from University of Porto and got her Master’s degree in Editorial Studies at the University of Aveiro. As a translator, she has published her work in Portugal, Spain, and Latin America, working back and forth in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. Her own poetic work can be found online at: http://sandrasantos-ss.blogspot.pt/.

Prepared and translated by Nicolás Barbosa López

Photo: Claire Brear

 

two of pentacles – robert beveridge

two of pentacles

The table sits in the corner. It
is brown. The fixture over
the table holds four lights. One
is burnt out. One is missing.
The other two are low watt
bulbs. The walls on two sides
of the table are beige. Chairs,
mismatched, face the table
on the other two sides.

The table is empty save a single
sheet of paper. It bends upwards
at the edges as if it had been
folded into thirds, placed
in an envelope. If there was
an envelope, it is not there.
It has been moved from the table.

A thread dangles from between
the two expansion leaves. It is
attached to the body of a spider.
The spider catches every draft,
drifts in the wind on the end
of the silk. The spider cannot
read, does not know what
the paper says. The Russian
Blue who lives in the house
jumps up, bats at the paper,
knocks it from the table.

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November 2018 marked Robert Beveridge’s thirtieth anniversary as a publishing poet. When not writing, he makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Pink Litter, Triadæ, and Welter, among others. 

NEVERS – angelo colavita

nevers

never as cold as alone
never as grievance as cowering
never as erstwhile as while away
never as milk as apology
never as pointed as silent
never as sentient as salient
never as cause as roundabout
never as hiccup as dying
never as frogs-hop as toad-croak
never as ordinary as chemical burn
never as prescribed as diaries
never as ocean as beginning
never as lost as ocean
never as poem as breathing
never as cost as cat’s pajamas
never as love as never
never as sometimes
never as nevermind
never as fact as daydream
never as bird as poem
never as whole as posturing
never as skinny minnie as loosie-goosie
never as punk as monks and monkeys
never as goth as a grandmother
never as metal as hedge nettle
never as entropy as dystrophy
never as end as cluster
never stars

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Angelo Colavita is a nihilist and experimental poet living in Philadelphia, where he serves as Founding Editor of Empty Set Press and Associate Editor at Occulum Journal. He is the author of two chapbooks, Flowersonnets (2018) and Heroines (2017), with work forthcoming or appearing in Pigeon Anthology 2, Dream Pop Journal, Prolit Magazine, Breadcrumbs, Luna Luna Magazine, Yes Poetry, Be About It Zine, and elsewhere online and in print. Follow him on Twitter @angeloremipsum and on Instagram @angelocolavita   

Photo: Samuel Zeller

the psychoaffective realm – kesi augustine

window

“The first thing which the native learns is to stay in his place, and not to go beyond certain limits. This is why the dreams of the native are always of muscular prowess; his dreams are of action and aggression. I dream I am jumping, swimming, running, climbing; I dream that I burst out laughing, that I span a river in one stride, or that I am followed by a flood of motorcars which never catch up with me.”

Now
Bedstuy, NYC, 2016

He lays alone in his cramped apartment. Tipsy cars are his soundscape. The yellow of a streetlight hits his dark skin like the promise of rainbows to come.

In bed, one of his legs dangles outside of his covers. The other cradles underneath. An army of sweat marches down his spine.

When he finally falls asleep, his face is a frown.

In Dream, he is walking down an alley. Blunt in mouth. Not knowing from where he came, or to where he goes, he walks.

Suddenly, he hears a familiar crescendo of footsteps behind him. The rattling of nuts and bolts.
He spins around on his heels, briefly seeing the world as a blur of pink and purple.

He stops.

The creature crouched in front of him is part flesh, part metal. Its boxy muscles are boulders. Black voids of eyes. Its chest heaves in and out with each calculated breath.

This creature is an old program, but a stubborn one. The newest creatures can morph into the subconscious. Embody the beliefs that roam in the shadows of the colonial subject. A model citizen at terrorizing Black people.

But this old technology still patrols Dream streets. For many, its physical ugliness cannot be stomached. It can catch and cradle them in their choking itches of fear. Suck the optimism from their hearts. Render them worthless.

“We meet again,” the creature howls, its voice a synthetic sound bite of virus. Its teeth, digital chips. The tone, a caustic, racist disgust. “Motherfucker.”
This time, man and creature draw their weapons. He manifests a sword. The creature, a laser gun. Something of a different dimension. The gun fades in and out of materiality.

It shoots.

In a split second, he makes himself jump. He wields his sword and brings it slashing through the fleshy part of the creature’s neck. Just as he has practiced. Night after night.

The creature drops dead.

He clutches his stomach, feeling warm blood spurt into his hands.

He laughs viciously like the thunders of a torrential downpour.

“There are maleficent spirits which intervene every time a step is taken in the wrong
direction, leopard-men, serpent-men, six-legged dogs, zombies—a whole series of tiny
animals or giants which create around the native a world of prohibitions, of barriers and
of inhibitions far more terrifying than the world of the settler.”

Then
Montgomery, Alabama, 1964

He lies restless in bed, both legs under the covers. Surrounded by an army of toys. A GI Joe. Cars. Even a teddy bear, still.

There are protests outside of his window.

“Mama,” he cries. Shaking. Still seeing the shadows of ghouls pressed against his eyelids. Still hearing their demonic squeals of joy. Still feeling the bony fingers pressed around his throat. The sensation of waking up with a choke.

She comes in.

“Again?” she asks. Weary.

“They’re everywhere,” he says. “I can feel them in my sheets.”

She places glass of water on his nightstand. To swallow the spirits. Then, a hand on his forehead. To soothe the imagination.

“Make it stop,” he cries. “Please, Mama. I’m scared.”

She sighs, seeing a white bubble of light surrounding his black body. Whispers a protective prayer. Feels his body for knots. Soothes the mysterious scratches.

She says, “It’s not real.”

“It feels real!”

She sits on the edge of his bed. Wipes the sweat from his brow.

“Stay centered, baby.”

Shouts seep into the room from between the drapes.

“Someday, you’ll know how to push those fears away,” she whispers. “You’ll learn how to fight back.”

“During the period of colonization, the native never stops achieving his freedom from
nine in the evening until six in the morning.”

Quotes are from from Franz Fanon’s “On Violence” in The Wretched of the Earth (1961).

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Kesi is a writer and a teacher of literature and creative writing for teenagers and adults. Her writing has appeared in Winter Tangerine, USA TODAY, on the New York City Subway, and in collections like haiku narrativo and ancient futures. Kesi received her Ph.D. from NYU in 2018 and wrote her dissertation on Black writers who are working to correct the lack of diversity in children’s literature. She lives in Queens, New York. You can find her at kesiaugustine.com

Photo: Teddy Kelley

two poems – victoria moore

candy

I HAVE A LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD

purgatory has a purple accent wall
where outdated times
chime me too
in grim agreement with
messages preaching
planning as solemn power
smear piss and pricks
of blood
the pretended portents of modernity
we come to calm infernos
hearts in hand
ripped bloody out of wounded chests
since a slaughter succeeds the fairy tale
starry eyed notions of invincibility
stricken before the scales

 

 

SWEETTART

I like waiting rooms with complimentary candy
get us to forget the float
how we drift
buoys untethered through a living supposedly
linear
hum a schoolyard taunt
first comes sex
next comes death
finally you get your white picket fence
hold in breath bated by the immemorial
war drum of suburban America
if you’re lucky the upgrades an Audi a3
and he’ll smile over more than a drink
we hear the chant in our socially collected cerebellum
that this progression is not up for debate
at this month’s city council meeting step
back from the podium shrills the superintendent
and fall
back to involuntary lines
we were born in rank
in the back
of a Walmart wound up
by blinking exit alley signs
point us deep through mirrored mazes
my neuron tangle goes
national
grid
electric
cus waxed paper is decked out with
juicy, shiny, bright, hot
watermelon
dum dums I always liked
consumption in a way
suggestive
of sex with childlike affinity

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Victoria Moore is a poet, student of history, and museum professional. She is currently finishing her MA in History and Museum Studies at Tufts University and hails from Chelmsford, Massachusetts. You’ll most likely find her nestled in library alcoves reading up on medieval popular religion, wandering through New England forests, or grabbing Dunkin Donuts like a true Yankee. 

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

affection/affliction – andrea dreiling

x-ray_of_paratype_of_paedophryne_amauensis_(lsumz_95002)

She sat on the torn sofa and finally glued the last bone in place.  She would write on the black, cardstock backing with white gel pen when she labeled the different bones.  Just like in 5th grade, when her whole class received owl pellets, each containing a single mouse-skeleton to reassemble.  After everything she had been through over the last year, it felt good to pin down what was left of it and label it in clear, scientific terms.  Who knew, maybe as time passed, she would grow fond of the display.  Maybe she would hang it on her wall and imagine flesh for it.  She had a memory attached to each bone, a story to write for them…

 

Innominate

 

In a split second they become so obvious, the two things that I realize.  The first is that I’m pregnant, the second is that I don’t know how it happened.  I hook up with the same couple of people sporadically and I hadn’t been with anyone for a long time.  Through the bathroom window the sky bares its teeth at me. Loneliness calcifies.  I could tell someone else but I’m not sure I can pretend to be happy about it, or if I even have to.  I remind myself that my body is well equipped to handle this.  I thank my wide hips.  What if I never love it?  What if it’s not even mine?  When you try to find answers where there are none, the nature of the task drives you mad.  You know you will lose even before you know that you will never stop trying.  I become a caged animal.  I try to escape because I knew I can’t.     

 

 

Sternum 

 

I grew up Catholic and left the church without regret.  I imagine the people I knew as a teenager and what they would say if they knew me now.  I imagine the way they would touch the rose gold crosses hanging around their necks, as if to remind themselves that they are not like me. I would ask them, Couldn’t there be a second Mary Magdalene to usher in the second coming?  I would ask them, Do you think you can have an immaculate conception even if you’re not a virgin? Why not? Besides, those celibate preachers had us touching the lean skin between our breasts while we murmured the son during every mass.  What could they teach about a woman’s body?

 

Mandible

 

All food has become tinny and dry.  I struggle to take care of myself, I couldn’t feel less maternal.  I call my friend Atticus, the King of Last Night.  We get drunk together.  It is horrible and necessary.  I play the pinball machine at the back of the bar where my face becomes a distortion rolling on the surface of the silver marble.  I remember how my mother ate so much liver when Oli, my baby sister, was born.  So much liver, I can feel its grain between my teeth now.  I clench them to crush the sensation away and wake up in one of my nightmares.  The one where my teeth are crumbling with such violence that they are choking me, making it impossible to tell my mom, who’s on the phone, that my teeth are crumbling.  My teeth are crumbling, and it’s all blood and bone falling into the bathroom sink.  One of the fragments becomes lodged in the bar of soap.

 

 

Metacarpals

 

In my inertia I stay in my tiny apartment, forgetting that my future child will take up space.  If I could, I would scratch a new home for myself in the face of the Earth.  I would wear my fingers down, leaving all ten fingernails inside the tunnels I create, burrowing.  The overripe drip of the summer sun will go on without me.  The flowers, rooting far above my reach.  When the bathroom door is open, I can see every corner of my apartment from the couch in the living room.  In the winter, when the window’s always shut, the dust moves in accordance with my breath, my movements; I like it that way.  If I ever left, I would crawl to the center of the Earth, as far away from heaven as I could be.

 

Sacrum

 

The lonely pregnancy is an anchor dragging me to the bottom of the ocean.  In the silence every word is amplified, every interaction a raggedly inhaled breath.  I visit Anne, a friend from college.  She will have kids someday soon, it is written in her five-year plan.   I sit on her couch gingerly, worried that the leaden weight of my body could break it; like I could crash, tailbone first, into her cellar.  If I relax for even a second, I could come undone.

 

Metatarsals

 

When men stub their toes they howl like baby wolves.  They revert to childhood somehow, or pull their yelps from some layer of their ego that exists without expectations.  They forget that they have to be tough.  It makes me feel closer to them when I witness it.   I also have toes that are often stubbed, and I don’t howl, but I pinch up my face, and sit on the floor and take a moment to revel in self-pity.  If someone is in the room with me, I expect them to ask if I’m ok, even though we both know that a stubbed toe is both ok and not ok at the same time.  At any rate, there is no cure for a stubbed toe. But there is a remedy, which is to momentarily lose yourself in the pain, to howl, or pinch up your face, to sit on the ground and be asked if you’re ok. I stub my toe on Anne’s coffee table when I stand up from her couch, preparing to leave.  She does not ask if I’m ok this time, she is too worried about the other parts of me.  A toe is just a toe.

 

Vertebrae

 

I try to go to a yoga class for the first time in my life, a special one, just for pregnant women.  Compared to the other expecting mothers, I am made of ash.  I do not glow.  I follow along during meditation, trying to roll a ball of light up and down my spine.  It should float gently, a paper boat on a placid lake, but it does not work this way.  Instead, I feel my ball of light swirling violently down towards my abdomen.  My bulbous belly wants to capture the light and snuff it out.  The last of my hope drains through an umbilical cord, I leave the class quickly, before anyone can ask me when I’m due.

 

Ribs

 

Starla lives in a world populated by possibilities.  I don’t know where I met her, I pulled her from the twilight.  I’m endlessly thankful for her company.  Starla’s the only one I can stand to be around as I head into the seventh month of my pregnancy.  We smoke herbal cigarettes and contemplate the possibility that I am carrying a baby pterodactyl.  At times I could believe it, because whatever is in my womb seems intent on pressing against my ribcage, winging its way up into my chest cavity as though my belly is not enough for it.  I suspect that what I have to give will never be enough for it.

 

Skull

 

The contractions come on all at once, as though someone is wringing my guts out like a sponge.  Something is wrong and I know it right away. I call no one but a taxi.  At intake I give all the wrong answers. They just started? And they’re how close together?  It’s like the nurses want me to make sense of it for them.  Finally, I’m taken to a hospital room with horrible yellow wallpaper- the color hurts my eyes.  I feel everything, including something beating against my pelvic wall.  The small fists turn to claws and it is pulling apart my flesh- burrowing its way out.  My screams are disembodied and go unanswered by the nurses.  My distended belly button opens-a new eye.  Finally, some doctors rush in, but they freeze when I rip back my sheet and show them the hole in my stomach that is opening up.  Inside I’m just black, no blood.  Whatever is pushing out of me is doing so without the benefit any natural lubrication.  It’s dryness scrapes through every inch of my insides and I pass out- missing my pillow and banging the back of my head against the wall.

 

Humerus

 

I’m dragged from my sleep by a blood pressure cuff squeezing my upper arm.  The nurse that is taking my vitals will not acknowledge my consciousness.  Hey… I begin but she cuts me off, The doctor will be with you shortly.  An IV drip runs into my other arm, just above the elbow, I bend my arm to feel the catheter burrowed into my vein.  I realize now, that I should be cradling a baby, and for the first time I really want it.  I want to look into its filmy eyes and rest it’s clenched up fist against my chest.  Hey, I want to see my… The nurse whisks out of the room before I can finish my sentence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scapula

 

I arrive at my apartment with the bundle of dead matter that the doctor forced into my arms.  No one had an explanation to offer, the only thing they would tell me was that my health was stable, that I could go home.  I toss the prescription for Valium that the doctor gave me into the trash. The fear and anger and confusion is a rubber band stretched to breaking point between my shoulder blades. I can’t breathe or sit. I try to take a hot bath but I sink to the bottom like a petrified piece of wood. I finally unravel the blankets to look at the dusty heap inside: a ball of yarn made from human refuse, hair, teeth, nails and bones.  I sink my fingers into the repulsive mass and begin separating the bones from the hair.

 

Wishbone

 

As I complete the gruesome task, I find myself hoping that there is a wishbone amongst all the tiny bones and filaments.  I know that most creatures don’t have wishbones. It doesn’t matter now if the wishbone would have caused a deformity.  The child didn’t have a life to live, deformed or not.  If I found a wishbone, I would set it aside- the only bone that I would not glue onto the black, card stock backing.  I would grip both sides of the wishbone myself, so that my wish would come true no matter which way it broke.  I would wish for a baby, a soft, living one filled with the novelty of breathing. I would close my eyes and pull.

Appendix:

n

Andrea Dreiling is a writer and artist from Denver, CO.  She has been featured in literary magazines like Teeth Dreams, Birdy and Stain’d.  Follow her shenanigans on Instagram @dread._ofbunnycauldron. 

12/15/09 – jen kolic

jen kolic

I broke into your house not knowing what I was looking for. You, maybe.

Instead there’s an overturned stroller in the living room. Piles of clothes that must be yours. Empty picture frames like open mouths. Your mother’s dishes.

You’re dead, and I’m dying.

Through every window you watch me from the dark porch, waiting for me to say it. Waiting for me to open my mouth.

In the attic the rain is deafening. And you’re down there somewhere. Sprawled on the garage roof or the front lawn or Cherry Avenue. In every memory your eyes are already vacant. I never liked it up here, the sloping ceiling pressing down to meet me, and all the sleeping rooms below.

There aren’t any stars tonight, and anyway they’re not for us. You’re dead. And I killed you. And I’m dying.

moon

Jen Kolic is a writer, editor, and know-it-all living in Denver. She co-hosts Queen City Companion with Brian Flynn, and Mutiny Book Club with Byron Graham. Jen enjoys cats, junk food, and mystery novels, ideally all at once. 

Photo: Yener Ozturk

on bones – shelby yaffe

sweat.jpg

If I could give you the beat
I think King David danced to
I would use my rib bone as
my holy drumstick, my skin
pulled taut to be my drum, taut
like women pull at their flesh
in the mirror when they cry

If I could give you a boat
hewn from my own clavicles
bound with red cord, mortared with
red lipstick, I would let you
laugh and jump in the water
and I would glow when you called
my bones useful, sharp, precise

If I could give you my bones
weapons brittle and moonlit
with sewing needle scratches
the flaws of a blood diamond
I would say, Bones do not cry
Bones have no mouth to open
when they scream into the grave

moon

Shelby Yaffe is a queer author, poet, and singer-songwriter living in Denver. Her short fiction has been featured in the Fast Forward Anthology Flash 101: Surviving the Fiction Apocalypse and in Suspect Press. Shelby would love to write a poem for your girlfriend. You can find out more about Shelby and her work at shelbyyaffe.com

Photo: Jay Halsey

where the color gets out – ghost #4

where the color

That person is a tight furrowing.
We are doctors of light, cauterizing
the wounds where the color gets out.
There are people who want to eat
your color. My last partner said,
half-eaten is eaten, & she was disbarred.

Having your color eaten by night wolves
is a subsequent inevitability: a sentient
outpouring of colorlessness. Everything wants
to eat. It’s gone before I look around.

cropped-ghost-january.jpg

Photo: Nick Sarro