the monk’s succulents – j. miller

monkulents

What kills you doesn’t make you stronger, as if every reason happens for a thing. I spent weeks trying to figure out how to keep the succulents alive. Patiently listening to classical music, and sufferingly waiting to hear back from my botanist-friend. Gregor Mendel waits as the plumule and cotyledons spread to the sunshine, to live without shame and to massage the ground as a 马杀鸡, accept the shame and stains of the ascetic life. A horticulturist who loves their houseplants will lose them; A horticulturist who hates their houseplants will need to water them even after death.

The matter of the fact is death creeps towards the houseplants. Now I remember if time passes by me, the magnolias will outlive me. Now I remember these sheets of time. Each layer found in a newspaper or magazine. The monk as a botanist advises that sunlight accelerates growth.

Growth. A bush beats around the dead houseplants. 上a Chinese word for up, pronounced shàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàngshàngshàngshàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàng shàngshàngshàng. Can the shrub withdrawal into the moonlight, and still watch the birds fly from their holes in the sky? Those aren’t birds.

You were a bird in a previous life, said my monk-friend, as we walked towards the delicatessen on 84th. A previous life, a forgotten sheet, sediment un-dredged, left to fall through the hole in the sky and rain that creates holes in the smoke, and holes in the sea, and sea in the holes. I am a houseguest here. Resultant from the monk’s prediction, all the houseplants died on 84th street. Or it could have resulted from an ancient Chinese proverb.

All gardens know better than their gardeners. My houseplant smirks at me. The houseplants know that I am its houseguest. Bonsai sprouts legs and waters me in my sleep, my pillow stained with sweat. All sheets uncanny, my potted plant and I use the same bathroom.

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J. Miller is a writer currently living in Central China. He teaches literature to a city that is often referred to as a furnace, and in winter he lives shrouded in a white curtain. Instagram @yawn_sea

Photo: Viktor Talashuk

museum of lost things – howie good

lost things

Now and then a person in his or her fifties or even sixties walks into my little shop. The men in particular try to maintain a dignified demeanor, but the more they stare at the price list, the more obvious the desperate nature of their situations becomes. I operate a business that rents neckties and briefcases to job interviewees. Most of the customers are recent grads who never needed a briefcase or tie before. I may seem to care about how they’ll do in their interviews. I don’t. Why should I? They frequently return briefcases with the snap locks broken or with strange items left inside. Ant traps. Lace-trimmed panties. A blurry photocopy of an 11-page suicide note. And yet I can’t always bring myself to just throw the stuff away. In fact, I crowd more items onto the storeroom shelves every week. A chrome lighter engraved with the initials KKK. One child-size red mitten. The takeout menu from the Bowl O’ Rice Restaurant. It’s like I’m the curator of a museum of lost things. Minibar bottles. A losing scratch-off ticket. The musty remnants of a hundred surefire plans.

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Howie Good’s latest collections are I’m Not a Robot from Tolsun Books and A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel from Analog Submissions Press. 

Photo: Heather Zabriskie

holes – hillary leftwich

holes

They lay down on the bed, his head inside her chest. He thinks of how a heart is like an engine, if the oil runs out it will seize. He saw a broken engine at his mechanics once, right after their daughter Lily disappeared. See that? The mechanic said, pointing a socket wrench at the hole. If you don’t check your oil, that’s going to be your engine. That’s going to be his heart. Too many cigarettes, too much booze, and love tethered then clipped. She slips him inside of her, asks if he wants it faster. He answers in heavy breaths. When the shaking subsides, she doesn’t touch him. They fall asleep and wake to an Amber Alert on his phone, flashing like a neon sign. He shuts his eyes and dreams of a little girl stolen. The girl is in a car with a man speeding down a curling highway. The trees lean in on either side of the road, straining to see inside. The man tells the girl the engine sounds funny, and if she isn’t careful he’ll bust a hole right through her heart. He hands her a gallon of strawberry milk and she drowns herself in pink, erasing her face. The man whistles to the music on the radio as he drives, the trees in the rearview mirror folding like two dark wings.

When he wakes up, the dog outside is barking, the coffee machine is grumbling, and she’s gone, a hole on the side of the bed where her body used to be.

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Hillary Leftwich currently lives in Denver with her son in The Murder House, a registered historical landmark and notorious 1970’s flophouse. She is the poetry and prose editor for Heavy Feather Review and curates At the Inkwell Denver. In her day jobs she has worked as a private investigator, maid, repo agent, and pinup model. Currently, she freelances as an editor, writing workshop instructor, guest instructor for Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash Workshop, and writer. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in print and online in such journals as Entropy, The Missouri Review, The Review Review, Hobart, Smokelong Quarterly, Matter Press, Literary Orphans, Occulum, and others. Her book, Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock, is forthcoming from Civil Coping Mechanisms/The Accomplices in October of 2019.  Find her online at hillaryleftwich.com and on Twitter @hillaryleftwich

Photo: Fancycrave

the poet who keeps a stripper pole in her bedroom – michael brockley

to the girl
I am drawn to your poems about women in barfly Nirvana. Your fascination with rattlesnake tattoos on the arms of PCP-stoked men. And your lifelong feud against nuns: Sister Eleanor of the Lash, in particular. I stand in awe of your courage when you challenge her Inquisition zeal. Barbed wire encircles your ankles. A primitive rose winks above your right breast. I have your initials branded on my wrist. When you blow your harp, the blues man Deaf Persimmon Fillmore rasps back. You installed a stripper pole in your bedroom for your lovers. Added a Hohner tat under the Chinese character for paradise across your back. And studied with the masters. In The Lives of the Diva Poets, I read you never wear jewelry anymore. Or perfume. Just biker jackets over tank tops and ripped designer jeans. When Sister Eleanor reappears on Mulholland Drive armed with her ruler and the vengeful God of Revelations, you taunt her into a duel. Her tuning pipe against your Fuego Azul. She doesn’t stand a chance. I met you in your Lucky Strike year over a bacon-and-eggs breakfast in a town renowned for labyrinths. You autographed a book with “last call” on the cover. When you play the harmonica during poetry tours, frat boys sit in the front row. You advise them to deep ink Betty Boop on their biceps. They want to hear you say fuck. I want to hear you recite the poem that tells what women want.

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Michael Brockley is a pseudo-retired school psychologist who still works in rural northeast Indiana schools. His poems have appeared in Clementine Unbound, Third Wednesday and 3Elements Review. Poems are forthcoming in The Blue Nib Magazine. In regards to social media, Brockley can be found on Facebook.

Photo: Naomi August

remembering to dream – linda m. crate

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standing on the edge of love, i looked in but was always forced out; a false god stood in the temple of my family keeping me away from all those who loved me—i could not break his lies nor could he swallow my truths, and so we stood he and i; two different shades of fire unable to communicate—he misunderstood me, claimed i misunderstood him; people have always whispered that he is good but they didn’t have to kill his ghosts—they didn’t know how my feet trembled in fear of breaking egg shells or how hard it was for me to reclaim all that was lost, didn’t know what it was to be versed in silence so they could know the hymns of peace when they really wanted to war against monsters; they do not know the definition of good—but maybe that’s the point, no one really knows what they are saying, no one really knows; everyone thinks but no one knows until they see the monster how monsterous a monster can be—but i know, and i’ve seen, his fangs; he cannot feign innocence to me—sometimes monsters take the shape of people we love, and sometimes that means we have to kill nightmares so we can remember how to dream.

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Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018). TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Photo: Steve Shultz

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