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
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.
If We Are All Just God in DragAfter Baba Ram Dass
Then I will paint my lips with your poetry,
batting eyes at the singularity of a millenia–
This shade always looks so good on you.
Pluck stars from the sky and sew into the fabric
of a time when I last felt this beautiful.
You know, it’s breathtaking.
I can hum a tune that will set even the
most doubtful tongue aflame.
Sit trembling in this blessed creation.
I, who speaks truth into life,
who molds the earth within my hands.
No golden idol can outshine this glory.
Our becoming is the most tender act,
watch curve and angle bless the ground you walk.
Remember when everything was beautiful?
Carson Elliot (they/them) is a nonbinary poet and educator living in Nashville, TN after spending many years in the quiet corners of Northeast Ohio. Their work focuses on the intersections of transness, spirituality, the natural world, and questions of becoming. Their work can be found in publications such as Samfiftyfour, Pile Press, Third Iris, Fifth Wheel Press, and New Note Poetry. Carson lives with their cat, Toast. Instagram: @heyitscarsonk
Your hand is detached from your body and yet you are already holding it upside down there are dancers in the courtyard who are dancing now to the sound of an accordion there is also a singer who sings to the sound of a barrel organ a song that speaks of a river that once flowed to the north of the country silence yet is biting me like the head of a dog that would be biting a single leg there you have no more feet and to the sound of the barrel organ the singer has kept his voice floating in the air has kept his voice trailing in the air and yet he has no more voice and yet you have no more voice neither there are the dancers they’re dancing in the courtyard and the dancers turn and their feet raise the dust veracity can never be put off as they say in a Russian song that you’ve been trying to sing now and then so now you’ve been carrying at arm’s length what’s left of you it means nothing words make no sense at all anymore to you a madman has just eaten a dog and the dog has also eaten the madman so there is no one left around there’s a gentleman who’s been licking the arm of a lady very conscientiously and the lady is so happy that she pisses on herself out of sheer joy there is a madman who’s been keeping his mouth always open for a while and his head always open too so we can see his brain but it is not you neither who’s been dancing in the courtyard to the sound of the accordion it is not a madman who’s been dancing neither there is no more barrel organ there are only madmen who now sing and dance in the empty and barbaric courtyard of my insomnia I’ve raised my head and I’ve seen my father hung on a tree on the back of a scribbled drawing and it’s not you who’s been dancing and it’s not you who’s been singing too and the sound of the barrel organ is not the one we’ve been thinking about at all though oh I love you you my beautiful barbarian singer sing us a song about the war a song about death now a thousand years old and I am only seventeen years old myself and seventeen is a beautiful day to die and I am fifty four years old myself and fifty four is a beautiful day to die too there is a thread that connects these seventeen and fifty four years together this thread is so tenuous and so invisible and so strong that it weaves within space two distinct realities that would never run into each others otherwise but I am fifty four years old but I am seventeen years old there are so many dead people breathing among the rising dust of their moving feet and dancing to the sound of the barrel organ a crow has come to eat my corn so I leave some to it every day on my window sill and also gray mice have invaded my place and want to eat nothing else but peanuts and I watch the mice eat their peanuts and I love the mice and I love the crow and I love the skeletons and I love the barrel organ in fact the only thing I don’t love, is myself.
On all fours
You walk on your hands like a madman like a child or like a headless animal which is the same thing you lick a small green insect crushed on the ground on your way to feed yourself a bit you stop for a moment and scratch your ear with your hind paw you are a little lost this morning because you have nowhere else to go and the sky has become covered with small holes through which the rain passes to fall and the rain is all red like blood and it’s your own blood that covers your face and you lick your blood to wipe your eyes then again you walk on the hands like a child like a madman or like a headless animal which is the same thing you cry sometimes you laugh sometimes too your face covered with blood is still very very red because the rain is really pouring down your face is almost made of rain now you take a short break for a brief instant and you jerk off a little to relax from all your emotions you thus ejaculate out of yourself your sick thoughts then once again here you are walking on your hands you are walking on dead people like a child like a madman or like a headless animal which is the same thing you arrive in a cemetery it’s overflowing with corpses putrefied people who sometimes talk with each other but without using intelligible words you sit in a corner with your back pressed against the tumbstone and you always keep repeating the same things only for you to hear as if to reassure yourself sometimes also with that obsession for staying clean that characterizes you you conscientiously remove your the hair of your ass using only your teeth in front of the mirror of your madness you think of your parents lost a long time ago just before dawn you have painted a picture on a piece of wood and on this same painting you painted a child walking on all fours a child or a madman or a headless animal which is the same thing the animal or the madman has started to devour the child it has been carrying on its back but no no it is not you it can not be you, that he’s devouring like this with full teeth.
Ivan de Monbrison is a schizoid writer from France born in 1969 and affected by various types of mental disorders, he has published some poems in the past, he’s mostly an autodidact.
Juanito screamed in the rain and drank from the sky trying to figure where he went wrong and lost his way. He met a beautiful maiden, they ate rabbit and quail, soon she led him up a steep trail.
Billy The Kid
We could see the white butts of antelope across from the Kid’s grave, we’d turn south to the Pecos River to fish, swim, and party
I almost died twice there, once by drowning, I dove in and hit a boulder under the surface, my dad rescued my knocked-out carcass before the river swallowed me whole; years later in
The back of a pickup partying, parked in yucca, mesquite, and creosote bush chaparral, a rhumba of tangled rattlesnakes attacked from the brush
People leaped out and ran like jackrabbits with coyotes in hot pursuit, now days after so much graffiti and desecration to Billy the Kid’s tomb- stone, authorities have put a cage around it
Folks say Billy was so dangerous, even his ghost might escape, the red caliche dirt roads have hills of petrified wood, crumbling adobe churches with faded white crosses and plastic flowers in the church yard, tumbleweeds blown against graves.
Catfish McDaris has been in many magazines, books, and broadsides. He’s a 30-year small press and 3-year Army artillery veteran, from Albuquerque and Milwaukee. Currently Cat’s selling wigs in a dangerous neighborhood in Milwaukee.
…Okay, here’s one for you: I’m retiring my last name Gomez for the one my ancestor Eladio brought over to Mexico City from a village in Portugal as a teenage immigrant: Games. Spoken aloud, the names sound similar, but I want my children’s last name to be spelled G-A-M-E-S. Maybe they can sneak past getting mail in Spanish only, and other things that come along with being presumed Latino. Which we don’t really feel.
…Eladio married a girl in New Mexico named Sparrow. She was reportedly often distracted and melancholy. Eladio was by accounts a young man of enterprising character and found work right away using the identity of a man named Oscar Gomez, recently deceased. Mysterious to me in that Eladio took not only Oscar’s name, but his job and woman as well.
…Eladio had six children with Sparrow, one of whom was my grandfather: Casimiro Gomez. He was the second son. Sparrow loved him dearly, and sometimes she called him Oscar.
…Eladio volunteered to fight in France during the Great War. It’s said he came home shell shocked. He got into the liquor trade when Prohibition kicked off, and moved his family to Los Angeles during the Great Depression for work when Prohibition was canceled. His experience as a war veteran found him a job as a cop and over time he hustled his way to being a vice detective.
…Casimiro eventually moved to Napa to work as a vineyard farmhand and then off to France to fight Germans because that’s what he was drafted to do. He returned battle fatigued to California, to Oakland, where he started his own family and became a smuggler through Eladio’s connections. He relocated his mother and two sisters to join him. He became the father of seven children himself.
…Sparrow remains in my memory an old woman in a wheelchair on my Aunt Gloria’s porch, distracted and melancholy, the ashes of her Virginia Slims always several inches long. She never learned to speak English and outlived Eladio by decades. Everyone called her Sparrow.
…The required public announcement for legally changing Gomez to Games was published yesterday for the first time in a local paper, I think. I paid for it. Not cheap. I hope my car doesn’t know. Publishing today and tomorrow will satisfy the terms of the law. I’ll get an affidavit in paper mail stating I satisfied that part of the process and then it’s back to the judge who already approved the change. It should be a done deal soon.
…I don’t believe my grandfather would think worse of me for it. Sitting at his kitchen table listening to horse races on the radio with his own Pall Mall ashes so long it made me nervous. Sometimes he talked to my father and I about how our family name had once been Games, and that we weren’t Mexican. We were Colombian and Portuguese. His mother Sparrow had been born in Medellín. I’m not sure what my own father would think of the name change, though he does live in Medellín now.
…Eladio’s name is coming back on the board. I did it for my boy and my girl, and not for the kind of ancestral return I claimed on the application. I know there has been name based prejudice in my life and if I can buy my children’s way out of it, I’ll take the surreal identity shift. Is it a little conformist? And do I think about how my son might someday choose to pronounce G-A-M-E-S in a way that sounds considerably different than Gomez? Yes. Maybe learning the shape of my environment and trying to live in it has been one of survival’s lessons, and that’s part of what I am going through.
I remain, Sparrow’s great grandson.
Paul Games loves silk ties, sometimes pop music, and identifies as a Rocker. He is an MFA graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder and has been an Adjunct Professor of First Year Writing at Metro in Denver since 2018. His son loves tennis and his daughter loves her friends. His wife tolerates him. His parents are alive. He likes to read thrillers and enjoys long sessions in remarkably hot sauna settings, though not at the same time. He is a Triple Virgo. He is from Oakland, CA.
In Defense of Early 2000s Pop-punk Songs with Needlessly Long, Self indulgent Titles.
1. There is a sound which when fused to last night’s last light will scrub the patina away leaving a palimpsest for your auguries, a place you will scribble your initials into.
There is a sound that overtakes the buzzing of headphones. It is a violin string leashed to the drill bit lodged in the throat. It is ripped from the larynx, swaying— a pendulum— an inverted metronome.
2. They Say All Roads Lead to Rome, but I’ve Been Walking a While and the Roads Have Only Led Me to You is the actual title of a song I wrote in high school.
3. There is a sound that waits in a guitar case in a room a thousand miles away. This sound is unburnished, unfinished, waiting for its number; its number is the chorus. It goes like this: the mirror that grew out of the mud looked at the sky and asked “are you so blue because it is my favorite color, or is it my favorite color because you are so blue?”
4. My grandma wears hearing aids and still hears music in everything. That’s why she calls my poems songs. is a poem I will probably never finish because how could it ever be good enough?
5. There is a sound which is a hollywood promise in monochrome halted on a film of silver dust. The daguerreotype recalls each eyelash, the quiver in the shoulder blade, the contour of the hip which is the mercurial vapor— which is the building across from mine where the indigo weds the sun-drenched gray panels and vaulted ceiling— which is the burning iodide amber, a perfect asphalt etching.
6. There’s a reason Chuck Taylors have been in style for over a century, and it isn’t baseball, basketball, or James Dean. Is the actual title of a song I wrote in college.
7. Cassettes rattle when the tape has to be reeled back into place. The rattle is a sad song that you’ve quilted to happy memories. So the minor chords are anchors, and the anchors are floating up;
it is a bleak but urgent hope to feel what you’ve felt before again; it is a chase; it is as close as you will ever get again.
Gage Anderson (he/him) was born in Centennial, Colorado and garnered a love of storytelling from the age of ten. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington Seattle. His poems have appeared in Capillaries Journal, Bricolage, AU Speculative Fiction Journal, Twenty Bellows Online Journal and “We Are the West: A Colorado Anthology.” Gage believes that poetry is the closest he has ever come (or ever will come) to performing real magic; still, insists on calling himself a magician.
Ten little fingers clutch like honey in my hair and pull at freckles golden as the mustard seeds that loiter in the brine she pours into her cup. Each little burst her lips pucker like a slit accepting a pearly button.
A slash of sun on the sidewalk baking the dandelion chalk outline and hollowed out footprints where I had held my feet still carving a name, a year. Under her nails the same neon color the same sweetly acidic smell.
On my neck her breath is sticky, heavy with vinegar and sugar and spit. The crease of her jeans, grass dyed and gaping reveal knees prickled with little ghost pins that someone will have to teach her how to shave.
Smaller but the same shape, her hands wrap around chains with a yolky rubber coat. Her Barbie sneakers tied with two fraying bunny ears pump up dirt at her back and she moves back and forth.
I cannot care for her.
Salty whisps rest on her temple, turning dark as she floats. She is whiter and cooler in places she presses otherwise blushing red bubbling. Lids flip up, marshmallow green swimming through frog eye salad. She whines that the water is too hot for her and someone will need to adjust the tap.
There is not enough space for both of us. Sideways brings a surge, her hand at my face pushing my eyelids down and in. Her hands catch on mine like her Pikachu kite trembling between tree branches. Winter at our necks she pulls, snagging leaves, hair.
At our feet, the drain is shrinking green brown silver. Her toes dipped blue pale as she pushes, pink as she curls back. A gurgling suck, then swaying silence. She untangles, flatter but not by much leaving fuzzy outlines on the fraying mat. Pages nest facedown peppered with sweating hollows like her neck’s center. She wants me to read it to her as if we don’t both know it by heart. Without the blanket of steam legs are static, arms slick and bumpy. Bone cradles bone both grow colder in the damp quiet.
I cannot care for her.
On her lap, a shiny overgrown beetle balanced between chin and thigh, wobbling as her ankle rotates. Our feet crisscrossed red and pale cracked open lobsters in the grass, glistening with butter.
A sidewalk sloping upward boasts spray paint stickers words she knows but doesn’t yet dare to say, but will need to be told to stop saying. A lowercase z, her body hunkers over the wall cement oozing between brick, dirt oozing between toes.
We squint, searching for the rusty crawdads clawed into a kelpy ponytail like her hands weaving my own into river currents. Like a hawk above a burrow she sights glistening red and follows, helmet at her hip.
She runs along the ditch, growing smaller. Someone will measure her height in gentle pencil marks on a closet door. Her hair is long, before she took her scissors to it and sprinkled it over the red stone patio for nests, feeling like Laura Ingalls. I bury my face in the grass sharp against my nose and eyes.
I will not care for her.
Sophie Gullett (she/they) currently lives in Denver, CO where she works as an educational researcher and amateur sewist. She has previously been published in The Broken City, The Raw Art Review, and Colorado’s Best Emerging Poets.
two white cranes with pencil-thin necks, flap their gracious wings against blue
mist rises from the creek as though it is scalding
brisk, is how you would describe this cold, cold morning where breath fogs in front of us like small puffs of smoke from early morning cigarettes
the creek is gentle today, as though there are more important things to do than rush
ducks sleep in the rushes, their heads buried so deep in feathers it’s as if they have no heads at all
Lou Smith is a poet based in Naarm/Melbourne in so-called Australia. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including Rabbit, Blue Bottle, Wasafiri,sx Salon, Moko, soft surface and Kunapipi. Lou is the author of the poetry collection riversalt (Flying Island Books). She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne.
Four new kittens periscope heads from the old gym bag pile molding in my cupboard awhile
I disentangle blind and slimy mice-sized pouches, bags of skin with wet ears flattened back on scalps their mother mews confused desperate to return them to the dark and cozy canvass den
Three are destined to find homes but the little ginger is a Viking who weeks old turns to fighting clawing at the built-in mirrors stalking up the avocado tree a ruler and a hunter preying past the front door till I find him one day by the roadside stilled but dignified
the neighbor’s children ignorant of Viking custom dig a backyard grave say little prayers, teary, terse for a cross of sticks in bone dry earth
My hand is stable, as is the light Pry my fingers when clouds ———-7 ——–consume your face! & my devotion unspoilt as clear GlaSs, gutted against your palm Pets slow
On the kitchen island —you ——— suck my terror out ——— suck my burden &——- feed me to the wall
Spinning in this moment when you’re really gripping, ———– jagged wind outside. Blue Steller’s Jay flits ——————-7 ——-windowside [my] knuckles inside you. —[!]
Will you risk what you want to give me? —– Will you be so ——————- dangerously generous?
From a hard ringing you find my disbelief thick as blood. It flows as a current I cannot move against.
I trace you with ice throw the cube to the floor.
And more, we travel up lightly, crest into Top-pond idyllic, ——–breathleSsly A feverish container: —stints between delirium, ——-all our desires.
A few small rocks, placed —————————–on a knee.
[Remember the way we slept folded & beaming & tethered, –then woke to show you my eyelashes] ——7 ——–There are few things I say I must see through, ——– to act the horse throw myself.
How to get to the bottom of it: —never What survives a whirlwind: –your world / maybe mine
Maura M. Modeya is a poet, performer, and professor from Bemidji, MN. She’s the author of Only Interested in Everything, a poetry chapbook published by Meekling Press. Before heading west, she lived in Chicago where she focused on live performance, as well as producing oddity and storytelling shows. Their work interests include delirium, sapphic ritual, eco-dykedom, the poetics of disruption, and public visual disruption through wheat pasting, stickering, spray painting, with other DIY modes. Beyond the page, she has curated poetry wheat paste installations of her own work as well as community poetic collaborations as an act of street publication. They hold an MFA in writing and poetics from Naropa University in Boulder, CO where they currently teach.
Find her on insta @down2theponywire or at her monthly queer poetry open mics typically held at Town Hall Collaborative.