Aloe: Affliction. Grief. Bitterness. | Vanessa R. Bradley

Image: Alli Elder
Aloe: Affliction. Grief. Bitterness.
I get a sunburn at your funeral.
My mother slathers me with cheap
aloe, sticky and dyed green.
I bought an aloe plant cause I liked the way
it felt when I pressed leaves
between fingers

and you told me aloe is for grief.

I look it up after in the book you left behind
soothing burnt, aching shoulders 
with vermouth from the family fridge.
Page 30: bitterness and grief in floral language
Break off a piece and squeeze until it bursts

It tastes like shower cleaner and acid reflux
the sound of my own voice in a snowstorm
a shot of rubbing alcohol 
a still green banana
that time you ate brie and yelled at me when you felt sick—
----------How could you let me 
-----   do this to myself?

Vanessa R. Bradley (she/her) loves fantasy novels and writes a lot of poetry about dirt, divorce, and discovering queerness. She lives in Epekwitk (PEI) with her wife, where she is working on a collection of poetry about the meaning of flowers. You can find her on Instagram @v.r.bradley and on Twitter @vanessarbradley.

Two Poems | Richard Oyama

Image: Max Fuchs

Thrift Shops

What you search for is
an approximation—

musk of old clothes,
utensils sans luster,

broken toys,
nicked plates—

disappearance of the new,
markings-down of the faded,

the distressed but
nothing to be done:

a secondhand life
exacts cost

and reduces value yet you’re
still in the hunt,

a fox burrowing among
burial mounds of apparel,

treadless shoes,
non-brand sports gear,

dubious appliances in
a cast-off world.


Luis’s duckbill shadowed
His eyes. That’s how he
Liked it. He was quiet as a shadow.

When I elicited an answer, his mouth
Twisted into a rictus as though
Words were rudely forced.

It was a code not to be violated, how he
Came up, the homies he hung with. He was
A good-looking kid but thin

And slight. I see him in
Pendleton flannel and jeans. He
Merged into a wall like indios around

Garrulous friends, the cholas more
Butch than the boys. Fernando
His Guatemalan buddy

Drove a senior van, a stand-up dad.
Luis straightened up
And flew right one day then

Disappeared to Phoenix the next. Abigail
Called him a child. Luis
Offered to show me his gun tattoo. I

Forget when it was he told me about
The felony arrest over his head
After he pulled a Glock on a U.S. marshal. It

Wasn’t the drogas he dealt that was
The addiction, Luis said. It was the green.

Richard Oyama’s work has appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, About Place, Konch, Pirene’s Fountain, Malpais Review, Buddhist Poetry Review and other journals. He has a M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming.

Toads in Bermuda | Charlie Brice

Image: Eduardo Soares

Toads in Bermuda

Only one cashier at the Giant Eagle today.
I’m stuck in aisle 7 that begins
with broth, stock, and soup
and ends with canned vegetables.

I stare at a can of Jolly Green Giant green beans
and wonder if, at 72, I’ll live long enough
to get to the beef broth, much less to Amber,
the patient and weary checkout lady.

Everyone fiddles with their phones. I pull
mine out and say to the young couple
behind me that I’m calling my attorney because
I want to make out my will. They egg

me on with laughter. Let’s gather kindling, I say,
make a fire, roast s’mores, sing Kumbaya.
We’re bonding, I say, and they laugh some more—
laugh at the old coot in aisle 7 near the veggies.

Earlier, at the deli, a sign reads, “Everyone’s having
trouble getting workers. Be kind to the ones
that showed up.” A man behind the counter says,
“Can I help you?” “Is that a Boston accent

I hear?” I ask. “Actually,” he says, “I’m English.
Been in Pittsburgh for forty years.” I learn
that if you’re from England and live in Pittsburgh for
forty years, you sound like you’re from Boston.

Later, in the grossly understaffed Post Office where
Janelle, the sweetest and most patient person
on the planet, is, as usual, the sole agent at the window,
a man in line behind me asks where the Express

Mail envelops are. “Is that an Australian accent I hear?”
I ask. “No,” he says, “I’m from Bermuda.”
“We used to vacation there when our son was little,”
I say. I tell him how Ari and I would go on

toad hunts at night, how the toads, of which there were
hundreds, would exude an hallucinogenic spray
when you picked them up. Once, when my wife asked
Ari how the toad hunt went he said, “That un-

conscionable toad peed on my daddy,” which was pretty
sophisticated for a five-year-old. In the morning
we’d find hundreds of toads flattened by mopeds the
locals drove. “There are hardly any toads left,”

the man from Bermuda says. “They’re going extinct
along with bees, bats, and frogs.” We stand
in silence for a few moments. Then he says, “We used
to have a joke about the toads.” “Tell me,”

I say. “Why does a toad in Bermuda cross the road?”
“Why?” I ask.
“To find his flat mate,” he says. We laugh about that.
Janelle laughs too.

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His sixth full-length poetry collection is Pinnacles of Hope (Impspired Books, 2022). His poetry has been nominated three times for both the Best of Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Atlanta Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Ibbetson Street, The Paterson Literary Review, Impspired Magazine, Salamander Ink Magazine, and elsewhere.