three poems – j.c. reilly

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Tempest

On the pier at Hawley Arm,
their legs hanging over the edge,
the sisters watch a storm
punch its way from the west.

As the bruised clouds spread,
the air, thick and woolen all day,
shifts and trembles. The lake
blackens in response, while gators,

like logs, sink beneath the surface,
ripples vanishing almost instantly.
A pelican on a cypress stump
takes fright, takes flight, its white

feathers a momentary erasure
of the sky’s embittered indigo.
The sisters ought to go in; a storm
like that can bludgeon a body with hail

faster than they can run the quarter-
mile to the house, but they know
what they will find there: broken hearts,
broken hearts, faded magnolias.

A Syllable, a Dove

A dove drops from your mouth,
round and fat at my feet.

I pick it up, my hands a bowl
for its milk-white body;

it trembles but does not flinch
its gaze. Shell-pink beak sings

of what you could never speak:
your wish to find a sky

unspooling with clouds
of loss, of wind crystal time,

of desire that pelts like sleet.
Song complete, the dove lifts

into the air: your voice on wings,
Goodbye falling, a forgotten feather.

Proverb

In my dream, a bride visits
a blue crystal rotunda, where

an elephant lives in sequins and silks.
If it looks at her with its left eye,

her marriage will be happy,
but only as long as the reach

of wild lemongrass. If it stares
with its right, the couple’s first

thousand days will be as the endless
mangrove, thick with an underscrub

of despair. But should it fix her
squarely with both eyes, blessings

will fall like a shower of silver
rupees on the bride and groom

till they drown, drown—
and the elephant drowns, to bestow such joy.

 

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JC Reilly writes across genres and has received Pushcart and Wigleaf nominations for her work.  She lives with three cats, one of whom is a Communist. When she isn’t writing, she plays tennis or works on improving her Italian. Follow her @aishatonu on Twitter or jc.reilly on Instagram.

 

Photo: Luca Carrà

i am from a lie – nicki quinn

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I am from a lie
From a sad truth that turned into a lie
I am from a place of sadness and depression
I am from a rose that cuts and tears your flesh
I am from a tree of death and darkness
From hell itself
I am from the sex gone wrong
From a waste of time and slavery
I’m from a trench that was dug for me
I’m from Hawaii. A beautiful place
From Hawaii, and a state of regret
From a mother that was a teen
I’m from a sex addict
From a woman wanting to be an owner

 

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Bio: Nicki Quinn is an idea. The main thing to know is that she seems to be one thing but sometimes is another. It all depends on the day, mood, and time.

Photo: Buzz Andersen

four poems – amee nassrene broumand

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Pacific Northwest Gothic

Wires coil within the muddy deep.

Apples thump
upon the ground. Midday dark
becomes bloody murk at dusk,
the hush of streets swallowed whole.

In the kitchen with the red drapes,
she binges cake in the dark.
Mother howls upstairs, upset
by the low & bellow
of the train.

Beaks flicker in the rail yards,
soon to roost by the cold slaps
of the Columbia.

 

Fallout

A rose torn from the ground
rushes downstream in the dark—
from my window I hear
roaring.

Night erupts into feasts & fireflies
& convivial ankles. Electric wheels burst
behind the waterfall—

the year crests down,
a fierce swan about to strike.

Moths thump upon a shuttered pane.
Blood ebbs.
Gulls & sandpipers mourn upon the harbor.
The skies morph into bleared chalkboards—
bang the erasers together & watch the dust rise,
snow bubbling in November’s tumult.

Douglas firs sprawl in the ochre light & howl.

Livid thunderheads—
the city flutters off the earth,
a gleaming kite into the void.
Noise bites my spine, taking hold.

I pause—

the radiant umbrella
sweeps overhead & closes. My skin

falls away, clumps of wet sand. I erode
running through the noise—

everything’s violet.

 

Opal’s Chatterbox

the decaying storefront evokes the suburbs I recall the pangs of spring magnolia trees still erupt in fleshy blooms purple wounds among long & spiky bones the greening of the year passes into the clouds skeletons rumble in a drawer with feathers & a honeycomb ghost until I throw it all away dust of marrow & pine sap eggshells years unspool widening the gap between us bicycle tracks snake through cement like casts of fossilized vertebrae gathering raindrops into mirrors for drowning swallows bound gagging they fade too the drums & the cages there was once a field on the way home where a barn rotted & rotted until the spine gave way & the roof fell—no I don’t have a photograph

Hydrothermal Vent

City street. The ocean bubbles through
a fissure in the tar. No one notices.

A woman leaps from a taxi—
a scribbled sheet, crumpled, falls from her lap
to the olive sea,
unfolding. On the corner

a hypnotic anesthetist grins over fistfuls of balloons.

Nine minutes later a paper child
climbs from the sea, up
through the road
& catches a trouser leg
to the taxi.

 

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Amee Nassrene Broumand is an Iranian-American poet from the Pacific Northwest. Nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, her work has appeared in FIVE: 2:ONE, Sundog Lit, A-Minor Magazine, Empty Mirror, Menacing Hedge, Barren Magazine, Word Riot, & elsewhere. She served as the March 2018 Guest Editor for Burning House Press. Find her on Twitter @AmeeBroumand.

 

Photo: José Martín Ramírez C

death valley – paul ilechko

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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

two poems – bruce mcrae

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Tugging On The Invisible
It’s in the Great Subtraction where the takers reside.
Their houses are without doorways and walls.
They’ve removed the light from their windows.
In their lives something vital is missing.

The takers, whether you’re fleeing out of Babylon
or staring down a sewer pipe
or rounding up your Christmas chickens –
they’re there, but in and of themselves solely.

Sometimes it’s a seat on the bus or last of the cornbread.
At other times it’s a kidney or a faint breath,
the takers only too pleased to shift the unmovable,
to create an aching from absence.

What began as a fist has turned into a finger.
From beginning to end, our lives are dreamed into being.

 

Banished
Bundle-of-lint, get back into your cubbyhole,
into your linen drawer, your kettle of fish heads.
To the seeping wound from whence thou came.

Silk-purse-out-of-a-sow’s-ear,
get back down into your hole of holes.
Return to the smirking mouth of the salamander.
To the bottom of your olive jar.
To the glove compartment of a burning sedan.

Mister-face-like-a-slapped-backside –
exit with the staged play’s walk-on mob.
Back to your shallow-dug grave in the woods.
Return to your shoebox hidden under the bed.
To your gouged hill scarred with aircraft debris.

Go, and never trouble this existence again.
And may your shadow never cross another’s.

 

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Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a multiple Pushcart nominee with over 1,400 poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If” (Pski’s Porch), Hearsay (The Poet’s Haven).

 

Photo: Mikhail Shchupak-Katsman

paper towel roll – jacob butlett

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“Gay males are thought to only represent 5% of the total male population but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay.” – National Eating Disorders Association

 

While the moon yawns outside the bedroom window,
I think of him as a white paper towel roll at a party:
In the beginning, a baby in the plastic-tight embrace

of his mother. Smooth, sensitive, plump,
he eyed others crowding around him, squeezing him,
soiling him with dirty hands of disappointment,

he believed. Holding me in the bed we used to own,
he once told me he hated himself for being himself,
for being the vanity’s prank upon the planet.

Since childhood, he’s thrown sheets of himself, papery
shreds of flesh, into the trashcan of life. Nothing remains
except a cold gauze of skin over his bones, the exposed

cardboard roll of his spine, which now I caress as he
falls asleep dreaming of what? Dreaming of food he’ll
never eat? Acceptance he’ll never accept?

I don’t want to compare him to a paper towel roll—
to any other object, for that matter—but as long as he retreats
into himself, refusing my help, how can I not see his body broken?

His spine’s a cracked telescope, fractured kaleidoscope,
revealing little in its lens, in its limited lightshow:
a glimpse of the brilliant borealis of his upbringing,

a glimpse of his future—colored slides in the light?
I imagine pressing an ear against his sunken chest,
a smashed treasure chest harboring, I hope, an ocean’s lullaby,

an ocean’s laughter. But now I hear him—
snores hoarse, whimpers raspy—begging to be more,
to be firm as muscles, firm as fat filling dead space.

Tomorrow we’ll talk. He and I will talk about this tomorrow,
before he fades forever like a breeze in the trees outside.
Until then, I close the curtains, tucking the moon into bed,

snuggle down under the covers, dark as an ossuary,
and dream of him—his smile wide as the crescent moon,
his once bulky body now protected in the warm plastic of my arms.

 

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Former poetry editor and longtime gay author Jacob Butlett (he/him) holds an A.A. in General Studies and a B.A. in Creative Writing. In 2012 he earned a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Key for his fiction, in 2017 he won the Bauerly-Roseliep Scholarship for literary excellence, and in 2018 he received a Pushcart Prize nomination for his poetry. Some of his work has been published in The MacGuffin, Panoply, Cacti Fur, Gone Lawn, Word Fountain, Ghost City Review, Lunch Ticket, Fterota Logia, Into the Void, and plain china.  

Photo: kaluci

what is this oblivion? – larry thacker

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Returning to where we’re from,
to before waking into the question.
Fresh grass taken into the mouth, chewed, swallowed,
brought up, swallowed down to a blankness.
What was the child’s first words? Why me, mother?
A truth-flavored, empty dark scripted of dreamlessness.
Housedress pockets bulging, hanging,
with sleeping river rocks.
Ask anything into an abandoned house’s broken mirror.
Light from a dead star, roaming and waiting
to be seen and named by the fading eyes
a beast stuck by a vehicle
and resting on the roadside.
Empty well. Empty well. Empty well.
Knowing where all the bodies are buried.
An antique typewriter’s stuck, melting +/= key
on the eighty-seventh floor.
The one balloon, released.
Dust on a window brushed by a man’s black wool-
suited shoulder, glanced through
from inside by the retiring barista.
Cup of black coffee, evaporating on a picnic table.

 

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Larry D. Thacker’s poetry is in over one-hundred-and-fifty publications including SpillwayStill: The JournalValparaiso Poetry ReviewPoetry South, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The American Journal of Poetry, The Lake,Illuminations Literary Magazine, and Appalachian Heritage. His books include Mountain Mysteries, the full poetry collections Drifting in Awe and Grave Robber Confessional, the chapbooks Voice Hunting and Memory Train, and the forthcoming full collection, Feasts of Evasion. His MFA in poetry and fiction is earned from West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit his website at: www.larrydthacker.com

 

Photo: Todd Downs

you don’t knock on my door anymore – ghost #62

1400 cobwebs

You don’t knock on my door anymore.

I’m left to that resonance of your last knock that ping pongs around my apartment like an invisible pinball.

I’m left to the vibrations like our hands intertwined on the keys of a piano pressed down hard with our feet on two pedals, letting our love ring long and loud but slowly dying down like a sick old dog.

I’m left to wonder if I still hear anything and at what point does living in memory become a madness.

A necklace, a gift, left to sleep in the bottom of a box.

Who’s to say that I’d wear it as a noose and not as the physical amalgamation of that song that comes on and transports you through time?

When we set things down to not carry them any longer, is it to forget or because they are already always there?

I look in the mirror as I wrap your necklace around my neck and watch as it sinks into my skin.

I hear a knock on my door but I don’t know if I’m home or not to answer it.

 

hourglass

ghost #62 is.

Photo: Matthew T Rader

lesser than less – rob plath

samuel zeller

i
want
to
feed
this
skin
to
the
wind
on
a
rooftop
&
sit
silently
kicking
my
bone
legs
over
the
ledge
in
the
moonlight

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Rob Plath is a writer from New York. He has published 21 books over the last 25 years. He’s most known for his monster collection A BELLYFUL OF ANARCHY (epic rites press). He lives alone w/ his cat & stays out of trouble. See more of his work at www.robplath.com

Photo: Samuel Zeller

miscarriage in train car #4 – lauren napier

letoh

The salt of embryo and ocean
The grounding of the shoreline and rubber tread
Here is where true nature is seen
Here is where fleshly goodbyes are said

Parallel lines in a hotel room
A parallel universe unfolding within a surreal frame
Enfolded in two familiar arms
Embracing again for the first time
Renewal – the act of letting go

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Inspired by all forms of energy and art, lauren.napier takes comfort in the written word and in creative performance. She lives within a lush realm of bittersweet melodies and phrases alongside her black feline, her guitar, and typewriter. Wherever lauren might be, her work may be found online at punkrockdoll.com or followed upon instagram.

Photo: Jonathan Pielmayer