Erin told me her face was falling. We sat on a motel bed in downtown Anaheim, each of us with stones inside our bodies where organs used to be. Hand to her face she placed her fingers at her jaw and said, it’s sagging. Like a landslide.
Our foundations were made from the gulfs created in the void of saltwater and sun; we were grown from the melting glaciers. Skeletons shaped from every piece of rock we had once picked up from the tongue of the shore because we thought it was pretty, replacing the bone until we were both ambling monuments.
In the motel in downtown Anaheim, we cracked geodes against one another with enough force to break them open to see if our guts were quartz. The same sort of rock scientists on playgrounds smashing stones to see if there were hidden crystals, only we were older, and our shared insides didn’t carry crystals…as we found out. Sharp fragments splintered and dented the cold bedcovers, rock people applying pressure as a kind of embrace.
And her face was falling like how Venice is sinking, and the world is impermanent, so we split our skin open to find anything secreted from the soft outsides. The shells of our exteriors thawed like those candles whose wax peels away to reveal tiny gems, but really, it’s just a trinket more like trash than treasure.
Structures like bones crease into putty like how memorials fall and become their own grave markers, and on a floral smoke-smelling comforter in a strip mall in Anaheim, I ease into the rock rain of my own face and the spring that found itself seeping out of the remains of my body. Our mingled landslide faces and surfaces liquified with only the memory of boulder bodies and gritted organs left in our wake.
Tomorrow we’d go back to carrying our stones.
Jane-Rebecca Cannarella (she/her) is a writer and editor living in Philadelphia. She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit, and a former genre editor at Lunch Ticket. She’s the author of Better Bones and Marrow, both published by Thirty West Publishing House, The Guessing Game published by BA Press, and Thirst and Frost forthcoming from Vegetarian Alcoholic Press.
His name was Pietro Ludivicci, and he was in love with symmetry.
Those statues of his were carved with a delicate accuracy, angels and saints poised to bless or condemn, their pale faces set in expressions of aloof piety. That marble virgin of his was housed inside the chapel, the object of awe among the townspeople. For the sculptor had rendered the stone folds of her clothing as soft-looking as fabric.
The flawless beauty of Ludivicci’s creations was rivaled only by the appearance of the sculptor himself. With his tight curls, regal nose, cherubic lips, and mahogany eyes, it was as if he were the personification of the suppleness of youth. How lovely, this Pietro!
Of course, the young women of the town were hopelessly taken with him. Why, even the mayor’s wife fondly referred to him as her first love! A cacophony of tokens, flowers, letters, and gifts took up permanent residence outside his door. In the marketplace, women would tarry and stare, and those bold enough to proposition him always received the same answer: a curl of the lip, and a flat “I’d rather not”. You see, Ludivicci was a paramour of human beauty- and perfection his muse. How could he settle for anything else in a lover?
These harsh rejections were hard on the ladies of the town. Many would weep, and some would pull at their hair. Young Viola, who cleaned the sculptor’s apartment, witnessed countless of these spurnings. In the smoky bars, her father, the innkeeper, and the older townsmen would snidely remark that Ludivicci may as well wed one of his statues.
There came a day, as the harvest-season came round, that the sculptor unexpectedly stopped accepting commissions. For seventeen days on end, he vanished from the eyes of the community. Circulating whispers suggested illness, or even his death. Viola of course knew that the artist was not dead at all. He had thrown himself into his newest project.
Ludivicci the recluse remained shut up in his apartment, his door opening only to receive the bread and wine he paid Viola to purchase for him. During these visits, the girl caught glimpses of a form standing in the center of his room- a new statue, perhaps? Alas, she could never get a good enough look, as the sculptor would pay her what was owed and then slam the door with a force that made the frame creak.
The longer Pietro Ludivicci was in isolation, the more fanciful the rumors about him became. He had certainly lost his sanity, most agreed. Signora Columbo swore she had spotted him at the temple, worshipping the pagan gods! How could he have fallen so far? Poor Pietro! A red-cheeked and mortified Viola confessed to her sister as they lay in bed one night that she had caught the sculptor cradling what seemed to be the face of his passion project and kissing its lips!
Months passed before Ludivicci was spotted in public again. He looked certainly worse for wear, with dark shadows underneath his eyes, an unkempt beard, and his shoulder-length hair hanging in an unruly tangle.
His sculpting seemed to be abandoned as a thing of the past, as he had emerged from his isolation with nothing to show for it. If one would catch him walking about in town or marketplace and inquire about his work, he would stare back with haunted, glassy eyes and mutter something about having more important matters to pursue.
No one quite knew where the woman had come from. The way the innkeeper told it, she had knocked upon the inn’s door late one night (the night before Ludivicci returned to society) and requested residence. Said her name was Giana Aldi. She had paid him handsomely for room and board from a fine leather coin purse that hung from her waist. She was a painter, this woman, who wished to work undisturbed within the rooms. Why is it that this town is the place of so many fussy artists? The innkeeper bemoaned to his wife and daughters as they, dazed and recently roused from sleep, stumbled to prepare a room.
Soon enough, the town forgot their fascination with Ludivicci in favor of the mysterious Giana Aldi. It was if she had been carved from marble, as such flawlessness seemed unnatural. Smooth dark locks flowed down her back to her waist, and large black eyes were framed by heavy lashes. They seemed to see into one’s heart, and one couldn’t help but feel naked and exposed under her gaze.
She was stern and dedicated to her art with a borderline religious fervour. Her neighbors took notice, with news of her traveling within hours. Who was she? Perhaps she and Ludivicci would be the perfect match for one another. Two kindred spirits, parallel in looks and practice.
Evidently, Ludivicci was enthralled by her as well. Every evening, he would stand at her balcony, wildly waving bouquets of flowers, imploring her to come down and speak to him. No one ever saw Giana Aldi do so much as open her window. Late into the night, the sculptor would cry, shout, and even sing love poetry! Poor Ludivicci was in such a state of ruin by the seventh night, yet he persisted. Having enough of this, the innkeeper accosted him on the street, ordering him to give it up at once! Ludivicci, likely emboldened by the wine running through his body, declared that he would never stop his pursuit until he heard word from the lady herself.
It is said, and there have been several witnesses to this, that Giana Aldi appeared on the balcony then. Leaning over its edge, raven hair spilling over her shoulders, her disdainful shout could be heard by all:
“I’d rather not!”
Gracie Nordgren is a Creative Writing student at the University of Colorado Boulder. She enjoys daydreaming and pomegranates, and would very much like to travel to Venus. Her work has appeared in Kalopsia Literary Journal, The University of Colorado Boulder Honors Journal, and Cathartic Youth Literary Magazine, among others.
Oh poets and their peonies! “As big as human heads” Jane Kenyon exalts, her pen heavy with extravagant language, enormous metaphors as big as life.
The perfume of such heady description smothers me, face-first in the reproduction of perfumed pistol and stamen. Yet it keeps the real makings of this craft at a distance.
Amongst poets, there’s a secret censorship of creation surrounding their beloved peonies— afraid too close they’ll catch the inner workings of such art.
Aware they’ll see, let’s be honest, the ants. Mary Oliver admits they exist. That something dark and alien spiders across this beauty.
She knows that a necessity for budding is this cutting, this eating. Knows that the cataract of leaves covering the bud must feed the hungry just enough. Must just hold back the swarm to unlock the flower’s form.
These thousand tiny bites release a poem as well. The flowering depends on it yet can also kill. So we unleash the ants but prevent such furtive legs from going too far within. Allow the justice of devouring so that the exquisite sweetness opens.
Inside any creation is a little taste of destruction. To pretend otherwise would be outrageous.
Amy Wray Irish (she/her/hers) grew up near Chicago, received her MFA from the University of Notre Dame, then fled the Midwest for Colorado sunshine. She has been published in Spit Poet Zine and Thought for Food; she has work upcoming in Progenitor and Chiaroscuro. Her third chapbook, Breathing Fire, won the 2020 Fledge Competition and is now available from MiddleCreek Publishing. For more information go to amywrayirish.com.
Along the cliffs of Ceann Sibéal herds of sheep graze, weighed down by crimped fleece.
Rough-hewn Celtic crosses, slathered in dust and moss, peek out from brittle underbrush.
A boat slices through still bay waters, inboard motor stirring up foam as the throttle is revved.
A gray dorsal fin approaches the vessel. With a barrel roll and flick of his flukes, Fungie the bottlenose dolphin launches
into the air, slips back under the surface, and reemerges to nuzzle starboard and port sides with his rostrum.
The Ring of Kerry is bathed in gold as Dingle’s red and white lighthouse guides Fungie back to the bosom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sean Woodard (he/him) is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Arlington. He also serves as the film editor for Drunk Monkeys. His creative works has appeared in NonBinary Review, The Cost of Paper Vol. 4, and Found Polaroids, among other publications. You may follow him at http://seanwoodard.com, Twitter @seanwoodard7326 and Instagram @swoodard7326.
Yes, Florida’s also in the South. Yes, we’ve been there. Yes, we’re planning to go there again, maybe this summer; no, we didn’t know anyone in that school, but yes, we all know someone in that school.
Yes, the kids are safe…well, not really safe. I talked to M this morning about what to do: whether to wait in the first fire alarm, how to listen in hallways, where to hide if she needed to.
Then I sent her to school with her cello and packed lunch as if this were normal.
As if I should be talking to her about survival, instead of test scores and school dances. As if any of us know what 6th grade is like when you’re worried about making it home alive. Yes, I say, I realize this is not normal. Yes is to say, I know the rest of the world doesn’t understand, and neither do we. No, I say, it won’t make anything change. It won’t end America’s love affair with guns because we’ve seen that we’ll let children die over and over again and that’s what it means.
I stop and think and almost finish. We’ll let children die before we run background checks. We’ll let children die before we stop automatic and armor-piercing and the hard-on for the NRA.
But I realize all those are just conditionals to the central fact, and the fact of the matter is America let’s its children die.
We’ve been letting them die.
I remember Columbine; I remember Sandy Hook. I remember all the stories in between and all the schools since.
Yes, I say, America.
Keri Withington (she/her) is an educator, vegan, and pandemic gardener. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Wild Word and Blue Fifth Review. She has published two chapbooks: Constellations of Freckles (Dancing Girl Press) and Beckoning from the Waves (Plan B Press). Withington lives with her husband, three children, and four fur babies in the Appalachian foothills. You can find her in Zoom classes for Pellissippi State, trying to turn her yard into an orchard, or on FB (@KeriWithingtonWriter).
his lips were purple and his breath was gone after I tried to blow it back inside of him but it blew my hair up over my crying eyes as I listened for his heart and checked for his pulse, a man so full of life the night before, but a heart attack woke him long enough to reach over to my bed to wake me up so I could save his life. I remained asleep as we both fell out onto the floor in between our beds his dead body pinning me into a rug burn that did not heal for weeks after his life force passed through mine and left me standing there, gazing at him there in the middle of the floor– done and over with and never again–until I realized his life force found refuge in mine when I heard him laughing inside of me.
Kevin Ridgeway is the author of Too Young to Know (Stubborn Mule Press) and nine chapbooks of poetry including Grandma Goes to Rehab (Analog Submission Press, UK). His work can recently be found in Slipstream, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Plainsongs, San Pedro River Review, The Cape Rock, Trailer Park Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Cultural Weekly and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. He lives and writes in Long Beach, CA.
a sketch of the 12 bar blues, approximate C major, central and key. now I play occasionally
in passing at a party – my close friends onto my limited repertoire but acquaintances somewhat impressed. especially since it seems I can improvise; just fiddle it a little with the left hand over pentatonic scales. that’s how you do it – learn how to play like it’s nothing. be casual – order in spanish and in french when you all go on holiday. know
how to wire a plug at the table. how to drive cars manual. spell certain words. play a little piano. how to write a poem about doing other things.
DS Maolalai (he/him) has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)
Caleb Ferganchick is a rural queer, slam poet activist, and author of Poetry Heels (2018). His work has been featured and published by the South Broadway Ghost Society (2020), Slam Ur Ex ((the podcast)) (2020), and the Colorado Mesa University Literary Review. He organizes the annual Slamming Bricks poetry slam competition in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and coaches high school speech and debate. An aspiring professional SUP surfer, he also dreams of establishing a queer commune with a river otter rescue and falconry. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. Website | Instagram | Twitter
Eli Whittington is a mediocre farmer and an okay parent. They enjoy long walks on rhe forest floor because the ocean is really far from here, and kind of scary. They are the author of ‘Treat me Like you Treat me like you Earth’ published by the late Suspect Press. They also have two tracks of spoken word on Black Marlet Translation’s Punketry album. They are really bad at playing banjo, but will always be, more punk than Brice.