Trying to Explain America to My In-Laws | Keri Withington

Image: Specphotops

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).

Where Do People Go When They Die? | Kevin Ridgeway

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

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.

Fiddle with the left hand | D.S. Maolalai

Image: Steven Johnson

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)

Rotting Eaves | Michael T. Young

Image: Del Barrett
Across the park, an old clock tower
surrendered itself to moss and vines. 
Tendrils coil along the clock hands, 
twine the gears and down the shafts. 

Finches knit knobby twigs, grass, and leaves,
nesting in vents and through the hollows 
where the eaves have rotted, remaking 
what we leave behind into the life that follows.

Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, Gargoyle Magazine, One, Rattle, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. Facebook. Twitter

It’s Not Polite to Stare at Body Autonomy – Shawnie Hamer

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Photo: Josh Newton

  1. Body Autonomy sits next to M & I at a bar named Vesuvius. The kind of place people sit facing north, & maybe each other when the weather is right. Josie the bartender is chatting up a couple a few stools down, shows them a video of Johnny Marr playing a Clash cover to her in Los Angeles. “You are very magnetic,” M says. Josie free-pours silver tequila into cold glasses, says “I know.” Body asks for a remote to the tired TV, flips through channels, mumbles mention of the news headline, a mother pleading for assistance in finding her 17-year-old son, who left in the night to a city she can’t quite name or find on a map. “The heart leaves when we don’t make a home for it,” he whispers into his whiskey lemonade. I don’t feel the need to leave.

    …..

  2. M & I stop to stretch our legs in a tiny town named Big Sur but isn’t actually named Big Sur. A town of stasis, of pausing movement while inertia presses forward in form of rented RV & restless toddlers. A town built on trinkets & organic oils & overpriced rooms. I light a smoke, stretch— one in the same, these days— M snaps analog photos of flowers that sway palm tree green. Body walks by in overalls & combat boots, long blonde hair. She places time-worn lips together into red highway line, hums, “Yummmmmmmm. You don’t see enough people smoking these days.” Swings her bag of chips like a little sis as she continues seaside.

    …….

  3. My parents haven’t seen Body in years. Met them once at a corner on Baker Street. In aisle 5 shopping for Frosted Flakes. A sticky interaction, one worn like memory, like cut-off jean jacket hiding in the back of the closet. When M & I leave for Highway 1, they feel the grief. Miss Body, wish their children could have seen the swag of their grin, heard the sharp cuts of Body’s laugh. They want to tell us these things, want to postpone the distance, but say “Be careful” instead.

    ……..

  4. M & I stop for gas in North Lake Tahoe. We barely make the sunset, water lava-lamp-like, holding ground as we stumble over twigs & tired feet to catch a glimpse. We find the cheapest gas in town, only two options. Fill the tank slowly. A busted black Corolla drives in slowly. The teen boys inside open the door, speak slowly. Say, “Hey! Slow down, baby.” M & I move quickly. Body watches from the next pump, filling up his baby blue Bronco. Shakes his head slowly, says nothing.


    ………..

  5. Body agrees that being locked in a car-sized cage & being licked by Kevin Spacey for a year is better than living out every “would you rather” scenario in alternate dimensions, but not by much.


    ……

  6. M & I stay with our friend L in San Francisco. L takes us to their neighborhood bar. Tells us the first time they really felt their legs was when they took rose-oil-infused-ketamine with Queens at a Pride party. Body sings “We Are the Champions” with the karaoke DJ as we take boomerang videos of our apricot beers clinking.


    ……….

  7. M, L, & I talk numbers, how they follow us. M says 5 is her favorite, a sign of luck when she drives the 12 hours from Minnesota to Denver, & then back again. L says seeing 22, 23, & 24 before their 28th birthday lets them know when to leave someone behind. I have an affinity for 32, my first jersey when I was 9. Tell them about the time K told me about my palm. Told me that I’d meet Body when I was 32. Said, “This uncertainty will be gone at 32.” Body passes us on the sidewalk, crosses south to head down Hyde. We head east, back to the car before the meter runs out at 12:45.

    For Marie, who played 1,632 games of Would-You-Rather with me while we remembered Body’s face. 

…….


Author Photo

Shawnie Hamer was born in the heat & dust of Bakersfield, CA. Her first book, the stove is off at home (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) is an experimental art & poetry book curated through a community ritual which focused on the identification & exorcism of trauma. Hamer is the founder of collective.aporia, & a co-conspirator of the off.collective. Her poetry can be found in publications such as Bombay Gin, Tooth n Nail: practical advice from and for the everywoman, The Birds We Piled Loosely, SWP Guerrilla Lit Mag, & Tiny Spoon Lit Mag. She is currently living & creating in France.

 

her tongue – paul ilechko

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

She pushes her tongue
into the hole of his castration
his vacancy the hollow
and her saliva mixing
with the memory of loss

                          a hawk shimmies into
                          the place within the sky
                          where the sun used to rise
                          before the blackness
                          became merely emptiness

along the border she finds
men nailed upon crosses …
suspended as a temporary
measure until their paperwork
might be verified

                          a desert is a field
                          that has lost a lottery
                          for which it never even
                          purchased a ticket and really
                          how cruel must that be?

she dreams of children …
and children might once have been
possible might even have been
welcome but not now
not here in this field of bones

                          he remembers being a man
                          in the time before they stripped
                          the tendons from within his
                          flesh and tied him to a post
                          beneath a dying sun

she thrusts her tongue
into the desert of his throat …
squeezing out moisture
that might just keep him alive
for one more day.


Barnes-BW

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, West Trade Review, Yes Poetry, Otoliths and Indicia. He lives with his partner in Lambertville, NJ. INSTAGRAM| FACEBOOK

Cover Photo: Jared Verdi

real turkey supper – summer j. hart

Matt Clifford - Photo Credit Matt Diss ALOC Media

The shadow wore Gucci.

She picked out his last suit from the stash he kept in the trunk of the Lincoln Continental GT, the one with the keypad lock. She could tap the code in her sleep.

She leaned against the kitchen island, poured Chardonnay, & waited for the meds to kick in.

After the funeral, she started cutting the suits into tiny identical squares, the way she diced tomatoes, stacking them into neat piles in the closets & under the beds.

He hovered by the dishwasher.

The tubes, oxygen, wheelchair, morphine had all become necessary evils in the end—the four fucking horsemen, he had joked, coughing & taking another drag.

This form cut a confident silhouette.

Stay awhile, I guess, how does that song go? He floated under the artificial daylight to an empty chair & held out his hand.

A constellation of tiny, jagged stars twinkled in the swirling dark of his palm. Cubic Zirconia, she thought, as they clattered onto the blonde oak table.

His sleeve began to unravel, his hand to dissipate. She wished she could see his eyes, his tell, but the darkness was fading now, sinking into the linoleum.

The Sunday after he died, she stole letters off the church marquee because what did they actually know of ghosts, holy or otherwise?

She slapped them down on the table like she was dealing: REAL TURKEY SUPPER
His silent laughter rattled the silverware.

She contemplated the empty bottle—squinted her eyes at it until it wavered & split into two. The suit had uncoiled itself into a single tangled thread, his body an inkblot on the tiles.

She pulled out leftovers from the fridge.

Cigarette smoke & unfamiliar perfume clung to the air between them.

Some things even death can’t change.

She stepped over what remained, to the microwave, & hit reheat setting 1. She stared at the slow spinning plate, counting the clunks made with each rotation.

Maybe they were diamonds this time.


SJHARTphotoSummer J. Hart is an interdisciplinary artist from Maine, living in the Hudson Valley, New York. Her written and visual narratives are influenced by folklore, superstition, divination, and forgotten territories reclaimed by nature. Her poetry appears in Northern New England Review, vol 39 & Third Point Press, Issue 14. Her mixed-media installations have been featured in galleries including Pen + Brush, NYC, Gitana Rosa Gallery at Paterson Art Factory, Paterson, NJ, & LeMieux Galleries, New Orleans, LA. She is a member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation. WEBSITE | INLIQUID SITE

cropped-sbgs-cowskull.jpg

gas station famous – jason ryberg

macro 2

for Victor Clevenger and John Dorsey

It was a hot and windy Saturday morning
in mid-September and Summer was clearly
letting us know that it wasn’t quite done with us yet.

We were buying coffee and donuts and DayQuil
at a gas station just outside of St. John, Kansas
in a desperate, pre-emptive effort to circumvent our
looming collective hangovers before they really kicked in.

I was wearing all black,
doing my best shabby working-man chic /
3rd rate Tom Waits / Johnny Cash shtick: big boots
big belt buckle and paper-boy hat, rakishly angled.

Victor had more of a quaffed and groomed
punk rock / hip-hop thing going:
red Chuck Taylors, baggy jeans,
silk bowling style shirt showing his sleeves of tattoos,
a black stingy-brim and faint hint of cologne.

And John was just doing John as only John can do:
golden ringlets and big, bushy beard,
classic black-rimmed nerd glasses and Doc Marten’s
with Virgin Marys painted on them.
I suppose we must have appeared a bit exotic
and out of place to some of the locals who
came and went with their purchases that morning:

just sitting on the bench outside,
sipping our coffee, scratching away at lottery tickets,
trying to figure out our next move while
watching a lone tumble-weed drunkenly
meander its way North on US 281.

We were on the road and off the grid—
AWOL, MIA and whereabouts unknown:
three wayward, vagabond gypsy-princes of poesy,
tethered to nothing and beholden to no one,
spreading the seed of The Word wherever the wind took us…

Eventually, the girl working there came outside,
fired up a Pall Mall and asked us,

Y’all famous?


Ryberg author photo

Jason Ryberg is the author of thirteen books of poetry,
six screenplays, a few short stories, a box full of folders, notebooks and scraps of paper that could one day be (loosely) construed as a novel, and, a couple of angry letters to various magazine and newspaper editors. He is currently an artist-in-residence at both 
The Prospero Institute of Disquieted P/o/e/t/i/c/s and the Osage Arts Community, and is an editor and designer at Spartan Books. His latest collection of poems is Standing at the Intersection of Critical Mass and Event Horizon (Luchador Press, 2019). He lives part-time in Kansas City with a rooster named Little Red and a billygoat named Giuseppe and part-time somewhere in the Ozarks, near the Gasconade River, where there are also many strange and wonderful woodland critters. 

Top Photo: Christopher Paul High

made of honor – december lace

AdrianHMolina-150x150

Putting together parched yellow streamers
on a souring, rain-swollen wall has left me desolate
this Sunday, love. The wedding bell decorations sprouting
up under volcanic eyes while manicured talons toast
my efforts make the small hairs on my neck rise
and my shelled ankles are about to take flight into
the drizzling afternoon. The bride-to-be, displeased
with the weather stomps on the conversation and
swallows wrapping paper and compliments with a
spoiled mouth and a flaming jaw. Woe, to our severed
friendship. Woe, to my barbed wire stomach, my
strangled lungs, my battered heart, my kidnapped spleen.
She has won my anxiety and conquered my loyalty,
draining my good intentions like a one-sided blood
transfusion. I am still hooked up to the pumps and leaking
essence into the floor while champagne dribbles at her lip.


December 45

December Lace is a former professional wrestler and pinup model from Chicago. She has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, The Molotov Cocktail, Pussy Magic Lit, The Cabinet of Heed, Awkward Mermaid, Vamp Cat, and Rhythm & Bones YANYR Anthology, among others. She loves Batman, burlesque, cats, and horror movies.