death valley – paul ilechko

david-everett-strickler-632154-unsplash

Clubfoot bravado
in seventies cheesecloth

he curses as the freighter
pulls away         his heavy

stare reflects a hatred
for all things golden

he lives for concrete
he lives for the hot

black ribbon beneath
a desert sun       a locked-in

world of tinted windshields
and leather plumage

rejoicing in the dialogue
between metal and stone

a voice that oscillates
across the valley

till twilight falls
and the new-found stars

weep again for the madness
of his remembering.

 

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Paul Ilechko is the author of the chapbooks “Bartok in Winter” (Flutter Press, 2018) and “Graph of Life” (Finishing Line Press, 2018). His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including Manhattanville Review, formercactus, Sheila-Na-Gig, Marsh Hawk Review and Rockvale Review. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ.

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Photo by David Everett Strickler

what you are rebelling against – matt dube

rebel

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.

 

hourglass

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

hungry ghosts – chris moore

hungry ghosts

How to Woo a Married Woman:

• Converse on a wide variety of topics
• Share music she’s never heard before but likes
• Be physically close
• Challenge her, without conflict
• Have similar outdoor interests
• Love nature
• Notice rocks
• Be quick-witted
• Be offbeat
• Keep your mind open
• Be intelligent
• Care about things
• Give
• Have patience with her children
• Be the keeper of more than one talent
• Be thoughtful
• Be intuitive (to a fault)
• Be sensual
• Make her laugh
• Have bright eyes

hourglass

August 2010: They say that the brain doesn’t stop developing until mid-twenties, even early thirties. Guess that means I meet her at a crucial point. Twenty-four. I tell her twenty-five; my birthday just around the corner. She’s eleven years my senior and a lesson in forced autonomy. I have her and I don’t. She asks if I see my future full of options and I say yes: multiple paths yet unknown. To be settled down is her dream and I lose myself in it.

 

Lately everything is a little bit more than it seems.  Lost in a book of a back-mountain man who builds his stasis from the wood of trees much like the ones that are burning to the ground as I speak. Maybe it’s a little bit timely, maybe it’s a little bit telling: the winds that raged that Labor Day when we trailed behind a group in the woods, crossing paths with children hunkered down under backpacks, on our way to an inlet that led you and I to our private rocks of contemplation. And tonight, we can’t even talk over the winds so I hold her against me, against the porch pillar, letting passersby revel in our puzzle pieces.

 

hourglass

 

Dear T,

I know I gave birth to you. You wilted with your wife and said you revived my body, the way Maria did mine. But I have seen how when a body is resurrected, a war can begin inside. These disorienting dilemmas have a way of upending lives. Your former life was a carefully set table overturned in rage. I knew our life together might meet the same end. Nevertheless, I persisted.

 

hourglass

 

The thought just barely creeps in. It says, we can make it outside my dreams. Her eyes are reckless windows that lead directly to her soul without passing ‘go,’ without collecting two hundred dollars; precisely why I always look away. Our very separate bodies ached together, woman who oh-so-frankly called me out on the speed with which I fell. Tempted to say: told you so or oh, how the tables have turned.

 

Valentine’s Day, 2011: I rent us a room at a quaint bed and breakfast in a mountain town, fill it to overflowing with candles, lie my guitar across the bed like a naked woman. After we have dinner I bring her there. I am shy. I sing and play for her every song that has shaken us. We consume one another the rest of the night. Blood everywhere. It’s either love or death to the housekeep in the morning. Surprised they don’t call the police. The next day, she vanishes.

hourglass

Dear T,

Who are our first lovers if not our mothers? Your disappearing act was familiar to me. You were familiar to me. You were my home insofar as you were like my mother.

Baby Duck Syndrome:

  • Absence on loop.
  • A scratched compact disc.
  • Unable to advance.
  • Insane in love.
  • Insane in war.

 

Maybe the possibility that we could heal our respective mommy-traumas is what held us together for so long. In the meantime, we loved the outdoors and creating things with our four hands.

 

hourglass

 

December 21, 2011: We live together now. I promised her before I moved in that I wouldn’t drink.

She strands me at a billiards bar in a suburban strip mall. She rents herself a room, over an hour into the mountains and makes her angry getaway. Her disappearing act is familiar to me. I fill my bloodstream to overflowing with beer by midnight, take a taxi home, find her reservation in her email inbox. I decide to chase her down, guitar in my backseat, and serenade her back into my arms.

A couple close calls: my passenger door and the guardrail, my sideview mirror and the median. A couple of empties thrown through my open window into the dark. A couple hundred shards of glass on the snowy highway. A couple of good samaritans. A couple 911 calls. A couple of cop cars. A couple of blows: a couple tenths of a milligram per deciliter away from a coma. A couple of hands in handcuffs. A couple of mugshots. A couple hours sobbing. A couple hours sleeping. A couple hot showers in between the couple hours of sleeping. A couple of other women cry aloud in the beds around mine. A couple bus tokens the next morning. A couple miles to walk back to our home without my socks, short-sleeved in a couple feet of snow. A couple days until Christmas, a couple dissolving.

hourglass

 

Dear T,

Thank you, oh and fuck you, for letting me back in a few months later. I became the third or fourth mother to your children for a second time. You’ve really gotta work on your boundaries. We were a five year love affair. Drama all the time. Maybe we were caught up in the passion we had lost. We fought about something everysingleday for two years. A zucchini flower. A credit card. Any snide remark. Any crooked look. The childrens’ bedtime. What to have for dinner. Who will cook dinner. Who appreciates who less. That thing I did two years ago. Which therapist we should hire.

 

hourglass

 

January 1, 2015: She says get your shit and get the fuck out by 8pm or I will call the police. My blood turns to battery acid and my eye levees burst. I get out. Downtown, center of the city, my friend Chad helps me across his street, up the stairs, into and out from the elevator, down the hall, into his open-air spare bedroom, and back again about fifteen times. I am moving out, maybe moving on, but my identity is still T and the kids. They’re everything. People often ask why a battered wife won’t leave her abuser. I understand now. It becomes the only thing of everything you know. Probably of everything you’ve known since you were a child. Familiar may not be healthy but it’s expected. Ani Difranco sings privilege is a headache that you don’t know you don’t have. Read that again. Let it sink in. I guess in my case it’s: abuse is a headache you have always had and so you didn’t know you could exist without it. And I won’t know for another two years.

hourglass

Dear T,

Fuck you for begging me back nearly six months later. And what of the in-between? The only true thing you ever said of me: you didn’t want a lover, you wanted a mother. I think you knew my weakness. Maybe you didn’t want to disassemble another household. I almost said family, you didn’t want to disassemble another family, but you’d put me on a par with your children and when one sibling moves away, the family itself doesn’t dissolve. But the household changes. Your household changed, drastically, the third time in five years. I demanded couples therapy if I were to set foot back in your house. You told me you’d do anything to make this work. Why then, in our therapist’s office, did his nearly-gaping mouth betray his neutrality? I sat tight  against the armrest, swollen eyes staring off at some object in the room. He coached you through what it would sound like to validate another human’s feelings. You kept up the questions about whether or not my particular feeling really had validity. That’s not the point. It’s not about right or wrong, feelings aren’t right or wrong. All feelings are valid because they are just that: feelings.’


val·i·date /ˈvaləˌdāt/ (verb):

  1. check or prove the validity or accuracy of (something).
  2. demonstrate or support the truth or value of.
    • synonyms: prove, give proof of, show to be true, give substance to; uphold, support, back up, bear out, justify, vindicate, substantiate, corroborate, verify, demonstrate, authenticate, confirm, endorse, give credence to, lend weight to; vouch for, attest to, testify to, stand by, bear witness to

 

It’s as though you thought that to say I hear you, meant you’d convict yourself. Of what, though? It’s the only time I ever walked out of a therapy session in my life.

hourglass

My anger is so thick I can’t cry. I go through the house reclaiming all of my belongings, again – if it fits in my car, it’s going with me. I slam the hatchback so hard on this part of my life that it echoes through the cul-de-sacs. I slam my car door just as hard. The dead bird in the bush comes back to life, my hampered voice fills my mouth again, the first time since thirteen. This is it: the moment where I take up all of my pain and resentment. Like so many knick-knacks from my past, I hurl the abandonment and invisibility into my literal and metaphorical car and get the fuck out because dammit I deserve better.

hourglass


Chris Moore is an elementary school teacher and poet-turned-essayist, residing in the Denver Metro area. She is currently completing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction in the Mile High MFA Program at Regis University. Her work has been featured in the 2018 Punch Drunk Press Anthology, Naropa’s 2019 Vagina Monologues Zine, and Allegory Ridge Magazine.

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

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

cropped-dead-bird-clip-art.jpg

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

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

new balloon – ghost #13

0000000 balloon

this is a death.

this the sound of a Boeing 747 knocking on your frontal cortex.

this is a purging of two-thousand and eighteen years of stop, of start over, let go, go home, be kind, deliver us from evil, love thy neighbor, tip your waiter, right side of the road, left side strong side.

this is a painter taking white #FFFFFF over everything except of course for

you.

 

this is my open palm telling you it’s okay.

 

you are okay.

 

you made a mess of yourself.

dirty laundry hanging from the dull blades of your ceiling fan.

dust lining the windows of your room.

 

start over.

 

press gently in reverse into the footprints you’ve left in the snow.

 

start over.

 

don’t give up.

 

give in.

 

suck in the sun, the sky, the dilapidated cars chugging down nowhere road so quick

and blow it out into a new balloon.

 

slipknot the string around your open facing wrist

and push off of the ground

into the sky which no one has actually been able yet

to measure.

 

cropped-ghost-january.jpg

Photo: Laurn Carrasco Morón

three poems – sam albala

girl and plane

half awake dreams

sam poem.jpg

dairy does that

I keep eating ice cream thinking it might save me.

                                                        from what?

who knows.

                                         the end of the world maybe.

fear of the end of the world.

                                                        dairy does that.

especially when you’re lactose intolerant.

 

 

middle finger to the patriarchy 

everyone loves a woman in distress.

                                 well tell everyone to fuck off.

 

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Sam Albala is a poet nestled in the mountains of Colorado. She has a horizon habit and can often be found gobbling up the sky line while babbling about road trips, tea, and anatomical hearts, all with her mouth full of light. To see not-real-life horizons find @keepmindscreative on Instagram. To read more composed words, visit samanthaalbala.contently.com

Photo: Danny Trujillo

two poems – ingrid calderon

annie spratt

lick

sweet lanterns, tender—pendulous ryles,
it lies, teeth clenched, between the gaps
youth lives somewhere, but not, if all—defiled
a vain tongue speaks, of past and present traps

a full beak drivels and remembers
what being thirsty brought
a sliver of the page in embers
old love seems to enjoy the knot

pitch and strike to sever hope
we sit upright on hardened wood
a foul beyond a wall, a slope—
he shows me teeth, undressed manhood/

age shows in corners/on mouths that curve
a habit earned and eaten/well deserved

richter

we see it, after an earthquake
the fragility—
in hot weather, we see it
we pulse with the sun and curse our impermanence
those quakes, and that sun, dance with our fate—
they twitch for our sanity—
they are contractions in our veins—yes—
these quakes—this heat—
they yearn to adapt to our digest—
and beg us to smash our bones delicately against another—and remain

SBGS December

Poet, amateur photographer, ex-Mormon & Civil-War refugee from a country you probably know nothing about (El Salvador), Ingrid Calderon made Los Angeles her home, and clawed her way through the English language. Most of her writing focuses on interweaving these subjects whenever possible. She has been published in OCCULUM, Electric Cereal, Dryland, Seafom Mag, Anti-Heroin Chic, Bad Pony Mag, L’Éphémère Review etc… After writing three chapbooks, Things Outside, Wayward, and Zenith, she continues to scribble nonsense into verse.  She hopes it resonates. Find her rants at notesofadirtyyoungwoman.com & on Twitter @BrujaLamatepec

Photo: Annie Spratt

three poems – ahja fox

matchstick

babe on a mission

I swallow matchsticks to prevent dumpster fires,
but they just keep on sparking
into next year.
Ma says the moon hides its face.
Men hide their skeletons.
How was I to know a strawman had a viper tongue?
I threw a glass jar full of pennies at his ex, told her
count your blessings ‘cause I’m too pretty to break your bitchface.
I keep my nails done. Glitter on my lashes.
I might rattle a few prison chains.
So what? I’m carving my name
into a New York, New York park bench.
Those jesus girls keep saying Christ loves us all,
and he does. That’s why I bring packs
of cigarettes to spiritual battles.
I know what they really want. Me on a shelf.
That can be arranged.
I have a poetry book coming out next Tuesday.

marginalia

XXX

canine teeth uprooted and worn on a choker

mom wonders why you can’t wear glitter like
the other girls

murk

Little girl promises to never speak
mommy’s name, cough up

crest colored plastic, yank
the heart out with it onto asphalt

to thaw and slip
around legs of next little girl

whose mommy bow tie
knots her hair on dinner plates

after 5 o’ clock. Sharp is the pencil
mommy puts in her hair

when she wants to see light
tease her black panties, limbs drawn

by hysterical laughter. She turns
her skin in red tipped hands, strums

her ribs Orphic Hymns, pinching
sheets of flesh around fingernails.

She has it bad, this condition:
her head drops to her feet,

her feet snap at the ankles, run
under little girl’s bed,

into little girl’s closet,
wherever little girl can wedge

talks with God
between floorboards.

SBGS December

Ahja Fox is a poet obsessed with bodies/ body parts (specifically the throat). She can be found around Denver reading at various events and open mics or co-hosting at Art of Storytelling. She publishes in online and print journals likeFive:2:One, Driftwood Press, Rhythm & Bones Press, Rigorous, Moonchild Magazine, Anti-Heroine Chic, SWWIM , and more. She has also recently been included in the 2018 Punch Drunk Anthology and YANYR Anthology. A Best of the Net and Pushcart nominee, follow her on Instagram or Twitter at aefoxx.

Photo: Yaoqi LAI