and you would call me bluebeard – a. martine

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You would be wrong
Thinking I have fled you
Thinking you have fled me
It is the unpressed nucleus
The unuttered understanding
The auguries that spell perditions
And deliverances.
You would be wrong
When my present is multitudes
Knotting with your pasts

You would be wrong
And that is not all.
I’ve lived in small spaces all my life
Lifetimes and avenues
Walked with you
My existence splintered where it meets yours
We have lived the grandest of lives
Been people, and then been others
Had others
We have gone and come again
Existences poked and prodded through the Needles
Of time
Dying when the other pulls through
Living together, sometimes apart
Sometimes never meeting.
Nine lives to match the cats
We always wished we could be.
In one lifetime,
My heart is sixteen years old
And yours is ancient, callous, cold
I give you everything
And you don’t trust me
This is the story of how I write books to make you forgive
And you, you look for lines so you can read between them.
There is another one, where I am graceless
But you are unconcerned about it
We bond over music and green tea
And exchange fervent recommendations
That border on the aggressive
So that it makes me smile
That passion of yours suffusing every title
And the rich tartness in the tea
And you cannot wait, and I can’t contain it
And sometimes, I even think I may
I may
I might
Love you.
That is not all, that is not it.
In another, I break your heart so many times you
Come to expect it, like the end of a calamitous song
We see each other this way and that

Cocking our expectations
Slanting our heads
Angling our gazes
Clinging onto the airless center like it’s a ball of light
Which we will never figure out
And it is probably for the best.
Here I peer another tangent
Ever so slight, ever so parallel
But it makes all the difference
Because where you once loved me
Now it is the other way around
And I am unmoved by it.
I feel old.
That is not all, that is not all.
I spy another
But this one is dim, dull, bleak
We are grieving for bygones, lovers lost
Superimposing their souls onto each other
Disappointed when the likeness does not assuage
The shattered heart
And what could have been never is
Which does not matter because I am but a drop of ink in your water
And you are a thumb of graphite, streaked on the side of my page
I do not, cannot care
And it soothes me when you likewise don’t.
This one should have been left alone.
Here a version, where
Nothing is funny, and everything’s a joke
My sense of humor sours and you take to appraising
and assassinating
My character with hilarious, devastating takedowns
I will drive off with the last word,
Dashing away at your fragile ego
With a witty, well placed observation on your tragic upbringing
And it will make you smile even as you excoriate
My name.
And that is not all, not all.
Life number sixteen:
You leave me
But I keep your books

And every now and then
I smell them to remind me of
You.
When you ask for them, the lie skates smoothly down my tongue
I tell you I’ve already given them
Away, sold them
Palming coins to illustrate my point.
My favorite cycle is also my worst
Kindling my masochism because it’s the only thing I cherish more than you
In it, you struggle with some secret pain
But you leave me out of it
And so I begin to do the same.
But years later you will say that I was the one, pushed you out
The way I pushed out snow, caked up on the sills of our apartment window.
There will be another time,
When Chance, munificent Chance will
Chance a glance on us again.
Your mother will try to hate me, but I am a paragon
Your careless father will pretend he doesn’t care, but I am Beguilement Itself
Your brother will wish that I had chosen him instead.
I end up bowed over you
And we make deathbed promises
Sated with the fruits of our rapture.
But that is not it.
It’s not yet the one I think of
Not the one I’ll think of years later
When I cross paths with you, a stranger one summer morning
Caught between two errands
You will stun me
Then and there
And I will not know your name
But I will never forget you
Forget the children I imagine for me and you
Forget the tangles we could make together
Forget the potential that fades as soon as you exit my periphery
Taking the clarity with me
You will break my heart, you whose name I will never learn (though I will certainly speculate)
But you will also save my life
Because I will look to the future as the softest place to fall
As long as it holds the promise that another summer morning may come
Where you and I will meet again.

In some separate continuance, your insecurities bend with my callowness
You, a seasoned cynic
I: have never been kissed
This is what you know: that I would endure it all for anyone
This is what I don’t: that your kindness, dangled under your contempt, will break me.
(And I don’t think some of you boys understand
The power that you have
How you can undo a girl with a barbed wire of a word
Dragged gently across her heart
It is casual
And all the more punishing for it
Casual and clever
In a clueless, guileless way
A guileless sort of way
— but I was saying. That is not yet the point.)
In the semantics of our lives, one sliver of me
Will meet your wholeness
And you will try to complement me
And I go mad thinking you will save me
When I should know better by now
Being a liver of life
And an inveterate reader of ghastly fairy tales
Whose morbid true versions
Hold nothing to their shiny counterparts
A lie
I’m eager to believe in, because
You do.
Here, a pitiful glimpse
You are the white noise I let whisper in the background
The simmering television screen I leave on for comfort
The tuneless music I dial up for company
The brouhaha that steels my loneliness
And why do I keep thinking we’re Saturday?
And why am I watching this again?
There, a sweeter one
Take a breath, I’ll take one too
I’ll make you like bowling again, might even tolerate mini golf
Peel off those tepid, tarnished memories you have of pointless sports

And we’ll sate ourselves on promises
We don’t dare yet speak aloud
For fear of what, of what.
And that is not all, not yet.
This one stream runs completely separate
And ever more troubling for it
We end up together
Accidentally
Sit on bar tables in crowded restaurants
Footnotes in each other’s lives
Scattered for the sake of others
If we both looked up, we could read eternity in each other
But you don’t like eye contact, and besides
I only wear shades.
Another one finds me the victim
Of your rancor, long fingers reaching from past experiences
Caressing warnings for you, that
Only you can sense.
They echo: she is dangerous
And you will treat me as such
Realizations, barred and nettled
Tightrope dancing
Over imagined foreboding.
In one story, you get comfortable too quickly
You call me “baby”, which chafes, but also somehow doesn’t
You speak low over the music, so that I have to get closer to hear you
And it works.
You would be wrong
Thinking I have fled you as you are
When we are fleeing everything we could be
And that is not all:
Like clockwork, our treads hammering the face
Our needles chase after one another
Chiming about regrets, about lifetimes and avenues
Of treachery and reverence
I dance away your mangled heart with glee
Because I can
And you will hate me (there are too many versions where you hate me)
Even as you double back
Six times you will lose, in order:

Your essence
Your poise
Your hopefulness
Your idealism
Your will, that vital urgency to live
Your — I might stop there.
And you will call me Bluebeard
A thief and murderer after your own lapidated heart
And of all there is, that might be all.


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A. Martine is a trilingual writer, musician and artist who goes where the waves take her. She might have been a kraken in a past life. She’s an Assistant Editor at Reckoning Press and a Managing Editor of The Nasiona. In addition to her own website, some of her fiction, nonfiction and poetry can be found or is forthcoming in: Berfrois, The Rumpus, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Metaphorosis, Medium, RIC Journal, Lamplight, the Score! anthology, TERSE. Journal, Gone Lawn, Truancy Mag, Confessionalist Zine, Ghost City Review. Follow her @Maelllstrom/www.maelllstrom.com. 

SBGS December

chinatown syndrome – kevin ridgeway

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I got so drunk
I thought the
the manager
of the Chinese
takeout was
my psychiatrist
and I told him my
recent symptoms
and he increased
the dosage of my
fortune cookies,
but I was not
compliant and
barely even gave
General Tsao
a chance to kick
in and my bags
of unused ancient
medicine left an
oil stain on that
that nicotine yellow
hotel carpet with
my other unopened
prescriptions for
sushi and many
other potions from
far reaches of the
world colliding
several stories
beneath us on
the metropolitan
island streets
that breathe dirty
steam we are too
weak to breathe
in as we overdose
on over the counter
bullet proof glass
medicine with very
unpredictable side
effects that make
us hide here in
search of the
healing energy of
an uncharted sky.


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Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press). Recent work has appeared in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly, Gasconade Review, The American Journal of Poetry and So it Goes:  The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, among others.  A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.

Top Photo: Khachik Simonian

SBGS December

three poems – brian matta

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Trash Bags
Piled on the curb
bloated with
semi used
tennis shoes,
unwashed socks,
And flannel shirts
with buttons missing.
Slouched against the sky
in the afternoon heat.
Becoming a new world sun dial
tolling to the neighbors
a new marking of time-
John is dead

SBGS December

Nostalgia
I wish I could bring you back to life
just to watch you kill yourself again
instead of being around
your loitering ghost
as stacks of unworn clothes
and bric-a-brac for me to trip over
because if you were alive
we’d just practice twisting the knife
in each others back and not pick up
the phone when it rang
like normal families
but we can’t
so there’s no point reminiscing
I guess I’ll start cleaning up
your mess
as you just lay around

SBGS December

Impotent
My brother kill himself today
blew his head off
well not off but close
and when I found him
his body reminded me
of a vase I tipped and let
shatter to the ground
and no matter how much
I screamed he just looked
at me with that same vacant stare
I buried my brother today
and the fresh mound of dirt
reminded me of a beach on Cape Cod
me and my brother building a sand
castle and our father told us
we had built it to close to the shore
we knew he was right
but fuck him

SBGS December


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Brian Matta writes poetry and plays. He is published in Newtown Literary Review, No, Dear Magazine, and Brine Literary. 

sad stories of the death of kings – howie good

death death death.png

I ask a friend if she can remember the last time that the stars and moon hatched from a golden egg. She doesn’t answer straightaway, just tucks a stray comma of hair back behind her ear. Because it’s one in the morning, the darkness outside is more like a solid than a liquid or a gas. I’m suddenly really tired of struggling to stay awake. The answer comes later, when I read in the paper that they sliced open a dead whale that had washed ashore and found in its belly plastic cups, plastic bottles, plastic bags, and two flip-flops.


Howie Good is the author of The Titanic Sails at Dawn (Alien Buddha Press, 2019)

Photo: Edu Lauton

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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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

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