Swing Set | Sophie Gullett

Image: Autumn Bradley

Swing Set

I. Yellow

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.

II. Green

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.

III. Red

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.

brisk | Lou Smith

Image: Rick Meyers


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. 

Instagram: @geniiloci

Little Ginger | Roger Patulny

Image: Don Hassan

Little Ginger

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

Inspired by: “Dead cat poem,” by Ann Alexander

Roger Patulny is a Sydney based academic specialising in sociological research on emotions and loneliness. He is a published creative writer and poet, and is the Chief Editor for Authora Australis. He has published fiction and poetry in numerous outlets including The Suburban ReviewCorditePoets Corner InDailyDwell TimeThe Rye Whisky Review, the Mark Literary Review, and Silver Birch Press. Twitter – @rpatulny

Excerpts and links to Roger’s published creative works can be found here.

[ <3 ] MOUNTAIN SSS777 | Maura M. Modeya

Image: Carles Rabada

[ <3 ] MOUNTAIN SSS777

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.

Candy Kiss Breeze | Nicole Taylor

Image: Steph Q

Candy Kiss Breeze

—————–stars swim with time

——-attend tennis golf frisbee

————————- —— lawn warmth and books

I he learn
——- serenity enjoy
driving for —————— trees roses

——————— ———-  be
———————————– – — able

hammock stay read – – – – – – – – – – – – — —flowers
——————————– candy

Nicole Taylor lives in Eugene, Oregon. She has been an artist, a hiker, a poetry note taker, a sketcher, a volunteer and a dancer, formerly in DanceAbility in Salem, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, Camel Saloon; Cirque Journal; Clackamas, Literary Review; Graffiti 1; Just Another Art Movement Journal – New Zealand, West Wind Review among others. You can read and hear more of her poetry at oregonpoeticvoices.poet/312/, a collection of Oregon poets with written and audio poetry available online through Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Ricochet | Suzanne S. Rancourt

Image: Cole Keister


a flock of chickadees, finches, or sparrows
descend from tree tops – a gradual Sneak Up
eyeing the 5 pounds of chia seeds i flung under the maple and basswood
wings a flutter in broken cadence the sound strewn
in a piffpiffpiff 12 gauge birdshot patter
a scattering through leafed shadows, landing as nothingness
these bird feet leave no prints – their weightless possibilities
love glancing off your cheek, or the obscure ricochet touch
spirit seeds leave pockmarks on soul constellations
imploded by lost dreams, speculations, expectations, the miraculous
surprise that followed success, friendship, profound beauty
the job we never thought qualified for or happiness undeserved
like that day we shared a plate of platanos maduros
the first time they came out right and true, you graciously forgot
how many bad batches you ate while i perfected the oil temp,
thickness of slice, the meticulous handling and smelling of the plantain
at the grocery store, selecting just the right ones
you teaching that the one with the most bruises
bears the greatest sweetness

Suzanne S. Rancourt, Abenaki/Huron, Quebecois, Scottish descent, has authored Billboard in the Clouds, NU Press, (Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas First Book Award,) murmurs at the gate, Unsolicited Press, 2019, Old Stones, New Roads, Main Street Rag Publishing, 2021. Songs of Archilochus, Unsolicited Press, forthcoming October 2023. A USMC and Army Veteran, Suzanne is also a 2x Best of the Net nominee. www.expressive-arts.com

Twitter: @FlameSuzy

Gone, Already | Leah Mueller

Image: Lars Dunker

Gone, Already

Vegetable matter,
dried skin on kitchen floor.

Scorpion season: thorax-shaped
tomato stems fool me into terror.

Dog presses against
barbed wire links,
with nowhere to go
but the same ten feet of earth.

One hundred degrees
for the rest of the month.

Ashes on shelf,
spirit in atmosphere,
long past the point

of concern. You have
flown north again,
towards cooler weather.

Sometimes your eyes
stare like the dog’s,
but I know it’s just me
trying not to forget.

Leah Mueller lives in Bisbee, Arizona. She is the author of ten prose and poetry books. Her new book, “The Destruction of Angels” (Anxiety Press) was published in October 2022. Leah’s work appears in Rattle, NonBinary Review, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, New Flash Fiction Review, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc. She is a 2023 nominee for both Pushcart and Best of the Net. Her flash piece, “Land of Eternal Thirst” appears in the 2022 edition of Best Small Fictions. Website: www.leahmueller.org.

For a Boy Answering the Name of Our Home as the Replica of His Pain. | Mubarak Said

Image: June O

For a Boy Answering the Name of Our Home as the Replica of His Pain.

i called this home / a seed that is birthed where ants fly and dance / i painted my eye with a mirror / to see the fuel of this hell / and any child in my home / became the portrait of an unknown water / you whispered / and cried into my ears. / but, i know this story / is another beast. / colours shine again / with the cries of the sun / and another day is buried / in the womb of every night. i wasn’t born to stay / with my feet / dancing on this ember / in this boring home / where my name is eaten/ by the name of death. / do you think a squirrel can die / when a farmer sing a bird? what my soul sees / doesn’t exist in this world / and dosn’t even have a name to be called / or a face and the theory of drought. / i came to this home / with the autumn breeze / & wind of deserts / that tastes sweetly bitter with lies / blood / tears / and any thing i shall call pain. / i entered this home / wearing a pale cloud / and rain on the soil that runs away / from the touch of my skin.

Mubarak Said TPC XII is the 3rd runner-up of the poetry category of the 2022 Bill Ward Prize for Emerging Writers. His works are forthcoming and published in many literary magazines national and international as imspired magazine, World Voices Magazine, Icefloe Press, Literary Yard, Beatnik Cowboy, Piker Press Magazine, Teen Literary Journal, ILA magazine, Icreatives review, The Yellow House Magazine,  Pine Cone Review, Synchronized Chaos, Susa Africa, Madswirl Magazine, Applied Worldwide, Opinion Nigeria, Today Post, Daily Trust, Daily Companion and elsewhere.

Three Poems | Aimee Herman

Image: Michal Matlon


Trae sang Frank Sinatra to my left as the doctor removed a drain from my right.

I wasn’t ready to look down yet.  

Later, I apologized for the blood I leaked onto the paper, covering my doctor’s white leather chair.  

I’m sorry for my mess, I said, an apology with a footnote, of which the dissertation is still being written.  

With compression off for the first time in eight days, I assemble as much oxygen as I can.  I inhale 

the width of North America and exhale four decades in this body.  

My eyes unclench; they are not fists.  

The doctor praises my body, her work.  

You are an artist, Trae says to her.  

Slowly, I drop my head.  

My chest is my favorite book pulled open to the best part.  

It is flat, bruised. Nipples like squashed berries on the sidewalk, sort of charred and uncertain.  

I have survived this pain. And my new chest is  

a narrative therapy exhibition

part one.

Debra, my therapist, writes me a letter to prove medical necessity for bilateral mastectomy. I become  a card catalogue of mental distress, two disorders and a dysphoria. The letter calls me consistently  depressive; suddenly, I feel so seen. Why must we demonstrate our unwellness for health insurance  assistance when no man has to take a photograph of his flaccid penis in order to qualify for erection  renewal.

part two.

Strobe light images of sensations and feelings. My feminist hides, squinting every letter into a scared  pill bug. My body is a neighbor I wave hello to, with preference to keep our conversations no longer  than a nod. We pretend we are strangers; it is better this way. There was a time before I flinched. Before  I looked at men and thought about their penises as bullet holes left in women’s bodies. Before what I  wore became a billboard for who I was, how I identified, rather than just cotton and comfort. Before  my dentist declared all the reasons my teeth were complicated derelicts: drugs, lack of flossing, all  those panic attacks and New Jersey water. Before my body had scars named after the men, named  after the meds, named after me. Before that HPV diagnosis. Before that colposcopy where my  girlfriend and I watched my cervix projected on a screen as though it were the star of a new sitcom  about genital warts and bad decisions. Before my body became a crime scene or the DSM-5 or a chalk  outline of a former life or a tear-soaked handkerchief or a protest poem or a ghost or a  misunderstanding 

or a question mark.


It comes back. It threads itself into the thin skin of my eyelids, jackhammers itself against my chest,  creeps into the wax in my ears. It has been cut out, but it comes back. It has been drowned out with  liquor and hops, but it swims to shore. It has been numbed with powders, chemicals, pickpocketed  medicine cabinets; it keeps waking back up. It. It is genetic. It is unruly, unpredictable. It does not care  you do yoga now or pretend to meditate. It has no interest in what you call yourself now, how you  (try to) see yourself now. It is not going away. It. It stops you from getting jobs, from believing in  yourself, from maintaining friendships, from committing to most things. It starts fights. It. It carries  a switchblade. It. It cannot be quieted by pharmaceuticals; in fact, it dares you to try that again. It does  not cower under doctor’s orders. It hates the term self-care. It is the most persistent part of you. It is  the one element of you that has not given up. It. It. It has locked your doors and windows, so forget  trying to walk out. It reminds you (in case you have forgotten) how worthless you are. It. It expects  nothing of you. It. It. It. It is immune to surgery and sermons. It may will never go away. It. It. It. It.  It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. It. 

Aimee Herman is a queer, nonbinary educator and writer. They are the author of two books of poetry and the novel “Everything Grows”. In addition, their work can be found in journals and anthologies such as BOMB, cream city review, and “Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics“. They currently host a monthly open mic in Boulder called Queer Art Organics. Aimee is extremely enamored with libraries, ukuleles, and the moon.

Hymnal of the Heaven-Stormer | Connor Khalil Marvin

Image: Adismara Putri

Hymnal of the Heaven-Stormer

When God looks into the marble slab of me,
She sees Herself. Chisel and hammer in hand,
She is the One who shapes me, chipping away
all that is not Her.

My insides have grown tired
of this furtive distance.
She’s so close, that’s why I can’t see Her.
Closer to me than Myself.

My throbbing wound, oh my gentle perfection,
dots on a grid. Lines between dots. Rippling,
all glowing, rippling. A single jewel
in a 350 degree mirror. Looking like a net.
I’m caught, gasping for water
as She pulls me from the ocean,
into the blinding light.
There is no such thing as “eventually.”
It has already happened.

I strain the kingdom’s rock.
I lift myself in two.
My armor pales in comparison
to my Self. I’m a pit-mine,
stripped-down for change. I’m wheat seeds,
ground to flower by the millstone of the stars.
When it’s i that speaks, it’s really I that speaks.
Say My Name. Ir-Rahman. My breath
breathes through every living point.
My particle wind, My immaculate gravity.
My hammer made of kindness
meets my chisel made of wine.

Feel yourself baptized,
chisel’s kiss
drunken shrine.

When I lay down to sleep I pray my heart stays awake.
Gabriel come and tear my heart from my chest,
replace it with a holy vinyard, so all might drink
and become quenched.
Home is where the heat is
hear the bells ring forest bliss, my God
please hope my supple sin and
consecrate my wand with light.
My God! As who, what voice, where from,
drenched in Sunday, stuffed with lion-blood,
tackled to the brine with fishnet gravity.
Give me gravity. Bring wine to orbit me.
Bring thrones to bow before. Bring doorways
arched filigree, gilded dew. My God!
I remember when Dionysus swarmed.
I remember the ivy on my head. Thyrsus high.
I am a hole in Krishna’s flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through.
Listen to this music.
I am a concert from the mouth of every milkmaid
singing with the myriad chorus.
My aura is drunk. My wake is oblivion.
My tenderest melody bruising hearts.
Make me a vine, make me a grape,
make me a press, make me a cask,
make me a cup, bring Yourself to my lips
so Your taste might stay forever
on mine. Pass me around
this squalid wasteland of Puritans
until reveling takes the night
and lights it on fire. Let the howl
of the Maenads, the Gopis –
frolic and playful, gasping and wild-eyes –
tear down the black curtain
and shred it forever.

Connor Khalil Marvin is a poet, instructor, and ritual specialist based in Golden, Colorado. He currently works as a house witch at Ritualcravt. He teaches contemplative and spiritual practice through his own platform as well as through the Ritualcravt School. He is also a professional Talismaner as Merlin’s Workshop. He has represented Denver at the National Poetry Slam championship four times, and was the Mercury Café 2017 Grand Slam Champion. His first full-length poetry book is out on Albion-Andalus Press, available at most online book retailers. He tries to avoid opinions and welcomes the annihilation of belief by direct experience.