Sun—suppliant. Folded skies, a swallow: mirrored creeks, trailing—drifting, forever a mashing, mashed—fists of bark, scratched and scarred like beaks of melee—like eyes full of mud, stung from powdered stones.
Juxtaposed: craved teeth, snarled brow— a puff and a pout, such were the memories of glass and dew—of patched mounds tied by clasped grass, fingers crossed— a crossing among sticks of light, like hypnotic grazes of skin and bone, a release.
Pebble for pebble—a toss and a skip, a broken roof made way for a charm, floating—bumping—a ray of shadow for tongues to find the path, a path— wayward fallen upon knees, thin and pressed—one leaf or two, feathered like a rooster’s crow—so let it be gone— so let our failures dwindle in our palms as those who stagger and find bits of rope to climb until we look down and see the dirt of our wrists.
Ode to my one weirdly long arm hair
that I cut you with surgical scissors, the ones
I use to split the lidded eye
that I know you
as an invisible blonde, though in my aging I grow
darker by in blight.
becoming, in sheepish sense,
father to a talisman, that I spoke thread and now
I glean this wheat
of me, my fields a pair of fore-veins,
fallow plough works kept clutter null in gold.
I would, if you were
still with me, give you as a gift
to some storied hero deprived of golden boon
who must loose his heavy
halyard and sail to meet his imprisoned
lover in a donjon across the sea.
Sooner, I could let
you grow, and warp so long you poke
out every needle’s eye, string them all together
into chimes of cuspate sheer,
tie hooks and pinch with leaden sinkers
to cast, and fish, and never again fear hunger.
And if I did not kill you,
you would be with me in those hours
when loathing struts and claps its fulcrum bell
along my streets, the cure
it sells, a miracle, and I can attest:
‘it’s true,’ I tell myselves, ‘if I can grow an arm
hair as long as this, it’s all true!’
You are with me
even if a nub, even if your root be plucked,
or scraped in some dragging from my seat
to dance, even if
in oil you escape, be it popped from
frying pan or pyre, be it vivacious, sebaceous, supreme.
You may leave,
but don’t ask me. You don’t need my
permission. I am not my arm. You are not a guest.
James Cole is a poet, author, filmmaker, and scientist based out of Charlottesville, VA. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Virginia. His writings have appeared in numerous journals, including Poetica Review, Artemis Journal, and Carolina Muse, among others. In 2019, he released his first collection, Crow, come home, through VerbalEyze Press. James also servse as an editor for The Rumen Literary Journal.
—This time,—————————– as a lullaby.— I do not dare open my eyes— as I kiss———————————- you though who am I——– if I take not this opportunity —————- to see– when there are only ——— so many moments left to look? Four months ago ————— on the air mattress —– wedged with my back—————————— to your sister— Whom I love——————— so well ———- I still fear the power of will —————– who could understand the power of will ————————- we grow ——- in distance as you grow taller?———————– I want you to get —— everything you want—————————— to know what would have happened if I had never met you———————————————– would I still be a metaphor———————- of space? Had I been a girl for nothing but delusions that can allude —————————– to me you do not cry but say – “the way you portray the human ——————- body is beautiful” no, I am no longer artwork only——– a self-portrait.– ————————————- I am the ghost——————– to whom you gave a body of mist I paint a picture of mythic mornings ——————— when water smokes with fog———— I could melt into ———————————– gentle as my eyes ————— are tired when———– you grow taller will you still be able to ———— hear me when I weep?– I do not know—————————– if I want you to I do ————- not know how to ask you —————— to listen——– To the day that is new —————— with future———————- days are new and mornings———— are warmer when I find myself waking with you safe —————————— inside my stomach.–
Basil Crane (They/He) is a trans, Jewish poet born in Los Angeles and raised not far outside Philadelphia in a house in the woods. They are currently focusing on surviving their last years of high school and hope to study writing in higher education. This is their first publication.
— When I was little my Da was still in the Navy. I would often miss him and sit on my mum’s lap and cry, “When is he coming home?” She would tell me gently, trying to ease my heart, “soon”. I would always ask how long “soon” was, but was always told: “It is soon”. —-In my mind the word “soon” sounded like the sun as it was setting, orange and yellow mixing in the sky and extinguished on the horizon. It seemed like “soon” would only be a day.As I grew older I realized “soon” was much longer. I learned that “soon” is what adults say when they do not have an answer. I began to believe that “soon” did not exist. Now that I am older I realize “soon” is so much longer. “Soon” can be months. It can be years, but it never feels “soon”.”Soon” is always an uncertainty, never a promise. —-“Soon” can be a lifetime.
Quinn Ponds‘ education and career are in psychology, but she has always held a passion for writing short stories and poetry. There is certainly something to be noted about using psychology in writing fiction! One of her humorous poems about tacos has been published in The PHiX- Phoenix Magazine, and a short fiction piece titled “The Humid Hours” can be found in The Dark Sire Literary Journal. Her cat-themed flash fiction “Baby’s Breath” is in Literally Stories, July 27th, 2022 and her latest published story, “Gather the Darkness” can be enjoyed at Everyday Fiction, December 21st, 2022.
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.
I have been enamored lately by the concept of messy, bloody, cathartic, altering the fundamentals of our societal responses to the constant bile-rising of glamorization and the need to perform sexuality, nonchalance, purity, a gold standard picture of a horrid, mangled creature draped in her own characters, choking on forced importance. She screams as everyone captures her slow death on video. Her sisters look on with pity and smugness and a bit of simmering jealousy, as though this will save them from a similar fate; if they escape visibly unscathed they still have not won. These women have become masters of compartmentalisation, as all women must be, slipping into routine numbness to block out the binging and purging on every false escape that appears in sterile media giving us new idols. She is broken down and sobbing hysterically on the floor. It is the greatest performance of her life because she only gets to have one before she is shoved behind biting remarks, cursing that her emotions seem to envelop her rather than cursing that she must carry these burdens at all. She is scratching and clawing at her skin as if to dredge herself out of the euphoric manipulation that is false womanhood. Her sisters are mourning the loss. She dies, finally, not with a guttural scream, but with a deep breath and quiet resignation. Her sisters exchange calm looks before descending upon her corpse with vulturous frenzy, dressing themselves in her memory to be her activist and champion, while she has already been sold and forgotten to make way for the next performance, to be a sacrifice satisfying the screeching ache of defeat we’ve felt since we were girls. Her red lipstick is smeared but in the way that makes her look thoroughly kissed, not the way that lipstick actually smudges, and her mascara is running down her face in her tears like she put them there to drop on cue. She screams and cries and her sisters applaud, her sisters are paralyzed as they fantasize about being in her position. Her perfect curls are held in her hands as she rips them out of her head. We continue to cheer and she lets her lungs fill with her own spit as her moaning is swallowed by the awe of her beauty as she falls apart. We clap and laugh and make knowing eyes at each other. We are so proud of being able to stay afloat. This, unfortunately, does not save us from the same fate. We sit, and feel, until we too are screaming.
Haven Nasif (she/her) is a queer poet native to Boulder, Colorado, currently living in Eugene and studying both English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Oregon. She has had work published in Portland’s Spit Poet Zine and often shares her writing through her Instagram, haven.nasif.
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