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 

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

two poems – seth berg

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Meditation by Means of Front Stoop
Two blocks from here
an old man on a rocking chair blesses crickets:

if vibrations could determine direction,
perhaps we too could hear the wingsongs,

perhaps the old man himself would bless us,
perhaps these vibrations—flitting translucencies—

would bless the tiny sea at our feet,
give us morphine and meditation

and the knowledge that
not unlike the old man…

we are all simply figments.

 

Directions for Levitation when Body has Lost Meaning

Find a thicket in which you are no longer you;

scavenge for seeds, silt, and an eclipse;

in the evening, after visiting hours have ended,

saturate everything green, make the ground vanish;

when you wake to find that your body, too, has vanished,

hoist your hallucinations skyward, ascend.

 

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Seth Berg‘s first book, Muted Lines From Someone Else’s Memory, won the Dark Sky Books 2009 book contest. His second book, Aviary, co-authored withBradford K. Wolfenden II, won the 2015 Artistically Declined Twin Antlers Contest, and was released by Civil Coping Mechanisms in January of 2017. Other poems and short fiction can be found in Connecticut Review, 13th Warrior Review, Spittoon Literary Review, BlazeVOX, Heavy Feather Literary Review, The Montucky Review, Masque & Spectacle, and Lake Effect, among others. Recently, poems were anthologized in GTCPR Volume III and Daddy Cool. He lives in Minnesota with his two supernatural children, Oak and Sage, and his magical better half, Kori. He loves your face.

two poems – andrea jackson

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Curtain

A sharp toenail cuts across the sky,
slashes the dream
like a starched curtain.

On the other side eyes glint.
The curtain falls apart like a torn skirt
to reveal you,
crouched, hands trembling.

Why do you look so green?
Who has left us here to rot?
Can’t you see your great love
has brought us nothing?

 

When the Story Came Out

I stand on the beach and let the wind
pass through my body.
Stars trickle through the atmosphere.
I’ve lost whatever it was
that opened me to fantasies.
There were lovely times
with dolphins and moths,
always something new.
The soft-spoken garage attendant,
the spaniel with its head cocked,
and all the time a green haze
wrapped around our city,
magnifying sounds so they echoed wetly
in the empty street. It was on such a night,
maybe on that very night,
that the garage attendant
strangled the spaniel,
and when the story came out
we all wondered why.
An innocent and friendly dog.
Life is a given; it’s death we must explain.

 

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Andrea Jackson’s poetry and fiction have appeared most recently in Triggerfish Critical Review, Star 82 (*82) Review, Gyroscope Review, Eyedrum Periodically, Heron Tree, The Tishman Review, and The Apple Valley Review.  She has received 2 Pushcart nominations and one nomination for the Best of the Net Anthology, has an MFA from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and recently published Who Am I and Where Is Home? An American Woman in 1931 Palestine, described by Small Press Bookwatch as “an absolutely fascinating, deftly crafted read from cover to cover…an extraordinary, candid, engaging, account of an inherently interesting woman in an inherently interesting time.”

 

Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel

two poems – kathy o’fallon

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Longing Still the Ruin of My Existence
                                                      for Tom

I always thought he’d come back
like this, wrapped in his youth,
spook to my banshee.
The thin man, I’d once teased—
huddled like an Einstein
crouched in the basement trying
to figure things out: aeronautics,
magic tricks, why
our family made no sense.
Bred in his lab
like little white spirits
or gods called by name,
rats nibbled crumbs from his lips,
staved his hunger,
but the lure of the airplane glue
proved too fragrant to resist,
formulas floating
clear out of reach, and then Boom!
a hole in the paneling closer
to the boiler than one cared to think.
Our father, who art not in hell,
didn’t like that too much, the trapped
pet rats now scurrying to get out,
racing against the poison-filled smoke.

I always thought he’d come back like this,
show me a smile could be sober
without losing its bliss.
Oh, how I’ve missed you, I said,
ten years of loss melting at my feet.

Umbilical Cord

The gravel granite path across
the cemetery crackles like rock candy.
What I’d give for a piece
to suck like a thumb,
weaned from the nipple.

I take off my shoes
so the stones can scar
something into submission.
I don’t mean to dissect the worm,
but I’m glad to, first-born of eight—
we craved the same nourishment.

I scrape fingernails along tree bark,
and its dust stains my skin.
She is here, reclaiming my body.
I kneel and cling to exposed roots,
can’t think       which one to follow.
They reach where I can’t so I pull,
but they break into little carcasses.

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With great assistance from her mentors, Kathy OFallon‘s poems and short stories have been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, as well as three chapbooks.  She is a psychologist living in Fallbrook, California, self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world.  Without poetry, OFallon asks, how would she know her own heart?

Photo: Tomas Tuma 

skim milk – jack orleans

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Marie met back with herself after quite a long hiatus. She was sitting in the den, reading the paper and letting tendrils of smoke vine up at her wrists. She met back with herself after she decided to take up gardening and collecting old National Geographic. She met back with herself after realizing that she wasn’t the one she needed to escape from. She met back with herself after she dumped all the pills in the toilet, and swore not to reach down and take them one-by-one, dry them off, and save them. She did that to two, swallowed one, felt half, and let the rest go.

She was reading NatGeo after stepping inside to make tea. The magazines looked like an attempt to get back to the land. In it there were glossed pictures of African women and Siberian native men, seemingly happy, seemingly without knowledge of more intimate pleasures. The most she’d seen is pictures of a few factory workers—some Soviet, some Chinese—stepping out for cigarettes, or drunk after hours. But even the cigarettes looked otherworldly. Between the fingers of people that weren’t her, and in a place she couldn’t be, the cigarettes looked healthy even. Like Chinese Coke, bitter and more bubbly, less sweet. Like Russian Kvass; healthful for fun. As for the tribal folks, the most there was a shaman taking the strange brew, which looked less like fun and more like duty.

Marie thought of what a mistake it may have been to throw out the pills. How, they swam down the pipes and tubes in a moment of peace, and how she might wish she wouldn’t when times became less easygoing. And in some ways she was right to sense that she in the future would be scolding of her in the present. That thought alone brought some tension, some punctuations in ease. She tried to lose herself from it, hiding between the glossy pages, under people who knew better, and beside them as close as possible without kidding herself. She put down the magazine to grab a beer from the fridge. The cigarette in her hand had fizzled out, but it was burnt enough to even think about relighting it. She came back to the magazine with a pint glass of stout, watching the black middle get sandwiched between two shades of foam.

She took small bird-like sips of it, now cautious of anything that feels good. A substitution couldn’t be on its way already. Anything that feels good; enemy. But she kept sipping it and tumbling through the rest of the pages, looking for an answer after having found the camaraderie. She put the issue away and grabbed another from the magazine holster beside the armchair she sat in. This time, the ‘67 issue. It felt heavy, and a bit too holy to not have a few more sips of beer and a cigarette beforehand. She wanted to read it, but wanted to enjoy herself, so she huffed the cigarette until the ember was longer than the ash and took one huge chug of stout. She took a deep breath and opened to the contents. In it was an article: Skim Milk. The title reeked of incredulity. Invitation by title alone compared to the others that started with ‘how’ or ‘when.’ It described the end of the Civil War one-hundred years later.

When soldiers returned from battle, they also returned with morphine addiction. Those who’d survived survived with a slow illness, rather than quick ones. Even if they’d not been killed or severely maimed, they still returned for carvings for the good stuff. To which, they were either put in asylums, or slowly died from the addiction. A doctor treating them had grown infamous for his advice: “to treat morphine dependence, the afflicted should make in their regimen a cup or two daily of skim milk.” Meanwhile, people who went to him still had the disease. The skim milk didn’t save anyone. In fact, drinking skim milk doesn’t even cure calcium deficiency. But they drank the skim milk, still used morphine until death or cold-turkey.

She looked through the myriad of pictures of soldiers trying to stand still. They did a good job, but the slump rest just beneath their eyes. Their pupils were the size of pin-pricks, and for good reason. Eyes like that make the light dim. They maintained their rowdiness in candid shots. Gathering around a small table playing dice, drinking, smoking on pipes. They were distant, unseen, clouded in sepia and scuff marks on the thin glass panes that served as film. They looked like they did, everything normal, just with the weight of morphine resting on them. Everything they did or could do, they would have done. But they hunched over, going about the day-to-day, but weighed.
They didn’t stop drinking skim milk. Even though it didn’t do anything, they didn’t stop drinking the skim milk. They may have died from overdose or stress, but earlier that day they most likely drank a heaping cupful of skim milk. And they didn’t ask themselves why. It didn’t help, but it didn’t hurt. Her interest grew into it, looking glued to the article. She finished her cigarette so she could read more, and the beer was making her woozy. So she clasped the magazine in both hands and tried to dive in.

She couldn’t understand how a doctor—someone who’s in the business of help—could suggest something so bizarre. She couldn’t understand the logic. It wasn’t perfect but they had methods for every other thing. It wasn’t perfect but it was better than years before. It can’t be perfect but it’s always better. She thought that that sort of advice would’ve been outgrown by then, after the war, after most of history. She couldn’t understand it, but also didn’t mind going for a glass of skim milk.

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Jack Orleans is a Denver writer whose work has been featured in Birdy Magazine (‘Nobody Leaves,’), SUNY Hopewell’s literary journal, The Finger (‘Edward III’), and Suspect Press (‘Orchid’). He has also published a photo-essay in Stain’d Magazine (‘Paris Syndrome’), and an essay is forthcoming in Litro. Jack can’t seem to fall asleep. He takes the bus late to have coffee. While taking the bus, he’s happy until someone fucks up on the bus. After, he’s happy but with caveats. He knows that he’d be awake regardless of having had coffee. He prefers to be awake and alert over awake and tired. He just doesn’t know what he wants, but it better involve lots of undeserved perks or skymiles. 

Photo/Ceramics: Tom Crew

what you are rebelling against – matt dube

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We sat on the floor,
backs against couch cushions.
On the screen, two grown men
Acting our age eyed each other
on the concrete lip around Griffith Observatory.
Sal Mineo’s gun was the message,
and he wanted to give it to James Dean.
He couldn’t live and he wanted
someone to know why
he had to die. Chris showed me
the movie the first time I crashed
at his house. It was important
to him that I saw the movie,
So that after we could talk
about it, to make sure I got the message
he was telling me. He wasn’t going to live,
that secret between us in the room,
held us hostage like a loaded gun
so that even when we looked away
that was what we saw.

 

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Matt Dube teaches creative writing and American lit in mid-Missouri. His stories and poems have appeared in Moon City Review, NIght Music, Rattle, and elsewhere. Twitter: @matthewdube

Photo: Frank Okay

speaking in bootongue – mark blickley and amy bassin

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New York fine arts photographer Amy Bassin and writer Mark Blickley work together on text based art collaborations and videos. Their text based art collaboration, ‘Dream Streams’, was featured as an art installation at the 5th Annual NYC Poetry Festival Their video, ‘Speaking In Bootongue,’ was selected for the London Experimental Film Festival. They published a text based art chapbook,’Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes From the Underground'(Moria Books, Chicago). Bassin is co-founder of the international artists cooperative, Urban Dialogues. Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center. Their text based art book, ‘Dream Streams, will be published in 2019 by Clare Songbird Publishing House. 

divining rod – patricia mccrystal

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Come now, circle cut in dirt
finger twist & bend cup palebreath
dreams command
snakes, sing
sultry song-tissue & fissured
……………………………………memory

descend, you who taught me cruelty
of blindness stumbling moonless & concussed
by nightforest, your terror- dipped step switches
through blades barefoot
……………………………………violet eyed

after you I welcome the visitations
yes, they become me

seizure of warmth
damp blackness these things
……………………………………a kindness

why do I trust the future
you’ve pinched into your dirty palms
divining rod pressed to my mind

somewhere blood twists uproot a child
awakens, nightforaged visions mangling her
chaste memories of land, of home and the size
……………………………………of herself within

do you remember the sun? you ask
your hands open
and close like mothwings

my only knowledge in the dark
……………………………………you love them to be so

each night I hear myself say no
no, I cannot remember
……………………………………things like this

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Patricia McCrystal is a published poet and fiction writer from Denver, Colorado. She’s currently pursuing her MFA in fiction at Regis University’s Mile High MFA program. She believes she was followed by a poltergeist from ages 10-24. She is sad to see it go. 

Photo: Omar Roque

the ventriloquist dummy pretends to be a spiritual medium – matt schumacher

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my ventriLoquIST diEd, but i kept right oN talking.
i know you’re sorry for my loss. HEy, want to Know
what’s on the other side? come up here and whisper in my wooden ear
to your dead santa claus. ask that stIff I caLLED a boss.
recite a wish list for the dead ventriloquist.
it’ll be a job interview gone wrong. you’ll see.
hear the dead head Man uncomfortably rEPLy to all my quEries.
whAt a riot. talk about having the bosS on the ropEs!
see, I’ll remiNd him he’s past his expiration date,
as he awards me employee oF the year.
too bad nO one caRes about his opinion. the Man’s deceased.
and you—like THE POLICE, you Keep askiNg questIons
about your FatE, If there’s an aFterlIFe, a heaven
where good boys aND girls go. but IT’s immaterial.
and i’m already dead. how the hell should I know?

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Matt Schumacher’s poetry collections include Spilling the Moon, favorite maritime drinking songs of the miraculous alcoholics, and A Missing Suspiria de Profundis, forthcoming from Greying Ghost Press. He serves as managing editor of the New Fabulist journal Phantom Drift, and lives near a Paul Bunyan statue in Portland, Oregon.