Or for terror – André O. Hoilette

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Image: Kevin Gent

 

after Nicole Sealy’s “And”

morbid savior born
on the doorstep of a corporation

the poor, voracious,
gorge the forfeited thorns
of corrupt senators
opportunistic authoritarians they
savor disproportionate offshore fortunes
worship
incorruptible corpses
while gormandizing landlords orbit
our torn world

i am the disorder in my aborted
forty fourth form
orthodox corpus
my torso deteriorates at the crematorium
or by ordinary worms

elaborate airport territories
vacant expanses for corona
dictatorial
not for foreign territories or shores
commemorate our glorious world
commemorate our glorious world

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André O. Hoilette is a Jamaican born poet living in Denver.  He is a Cave Canem alum and former editor or ambulant: A Journal of Poetry & Art and Nexus magazine.  Hoilette is currently pursuing MFAs in Fiction and Poetry from Regis University.  He work has been published in Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander (A global anthology of social justice poetry) , Role Call, Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam, Cave Canem 10 anniversary reader, milk magazine and other publications. 

Zombie Apocalypse – Gerry Sloan

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Image: Brian McGowen

Our grandchildren are in the vanguard
of human evolution, autism possibly
the latest mutation, since change
has one leg up on adaptation.
Trouble is, the microbes
mutate faster than we do
and have had more practice.
In the matter of intelligence they
have outguessed us more than once.
It will require our best to see this through.
The past two Halloweens
my autistic grandson has gone
trick-or-treating as a hazmat zombie,
as if he owned a crystal ball
for the coronavirus.
Maybe we should turn our welfare
over to children, who might be
more adaptable than
millionaires over seventy
masquerading as world leaders.

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Gerry Sloan is a poet and musician living in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has two poetry collections: Paper Lanterns (2011) and Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (2017), recent work appearing in Elder Mountain, Cave Region Review, Xavier Review, and Slant. He often defaults to hot tea and old movies for solace.

THIS IS A STORY ABOUT SETTING FIRE TO A GRAVEYARD – Patricia McCrystal

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Image: Paweł Czerwiński

Someone set fire to the graveyard this morning. It wasn’t like anything you’ve ever seen. I didn’t get emotional when I saw it, unlike the blue hairs who stopped their Buicks on the side of 44th, genuflecting and crying and clutching the crosses around their necks. I pulled my truck over and got out just as sirens started up out east. I expected it to smell bad, like maybe the bodies and coffins would start burning too, but it just smelled like a campfire. I loved that smell. Especially with ribbons of raw venison skewered over top, blood and fat dripping into the heart of the pit. A thermos of whiskey in one hand and your old man leaning back in the chair adjacent, rolling smokes slow and careful like he’s got all the time in the world.

The fire felt right. Like cleansing the clutter that’s grown so slowly you don’t even notice until you can see it in the corners of your eyes when you try to relax. I’m not saying I did it, or that I even know who did. I’m just saying it didn’t strike me as an evil deed. I wish it could have been that easy when we gutted dad’s house and piled everything on the lawn for the estate sale. Just haul out that saggy blue couch and old tube TV and rip up the baby puke carpet and douse it all with a healthy dose of Boy Scout water and light it up. Howdy, Mrs. Johnson! Come on out from behind those curtains and bring some marshmallows! Dad would have wanted it that way, I bet. 

Maybe an angel started the fire as a favor to the overused land. Fire brings up fresh grass and stronger trees. Maybe Michael the Archangel snuck down here with a can of lighter fluid. Maybe he knows that graveyards are a vanity that were never God’s wanting. Boy was that fire something. 

Whoever did it knew what they were doing. When firemen started spraying water all over, I considered how much gasoline it would have taken to make sure those flames burned as fast and hot as they did. We’ve had a wet spring, so it wouldn’t have been easy. Then again, whoever did it could have gotten creative and sided with the three S’s — sodium chlorate crystals, sugar, and sulfuric acid. I sniffed the air. It was hard to say.

An old woman put her hand on my shoulder and asked if I had a relative in the graveyard on account of me watching for so long. Yes, I told her. She waited for more. Then her wrinkled face puckered up like a dog’s asshole and she went back to crying and saying over and over again Lord have mercy. I wanted to tell her, he does. Look straight ahead.

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Patricia McCrystal is the recent recipient of the Slippery Elm Prose Prize and the founder of VIRAGO, a womxn’s writing circle. Her work can be found on PBS and in Heavy Feather Review, South Broadway Ghost Society, Birdy Magazine, and more. She’s pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Regis University.

I’m Not Ready For Curbside – Dennis Etzel, Jr.

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Image: The Visuals Project, Charles Deluvio

especially after the last time
our pizza was made by hand
sanitizer, but I believe in second
toppings & chances. I wear my mask
covered with butterflies & wonder
if the young man in the next car
chuckles at me for taking that chance
in nature-filled protection
while he has no fabric for his mouth.
I don’t want to speak for him
as a ventriloquist but I am uneasy
& worried out here in my sky
watching for birds & clouds
& the coming storm that may
or may not happen. Of course
this is me daydreaming
of last year where every surface
was immaculate as we drift
together in a winged migration
back inside. I have to admit
I have cash to pay with & can
include a nice tip as I also have time
to embrace this time. We all can
wait outside together as three birds
swoop in a motion many never do.
After the cashier hands me my pizzas
in their warm boxes, I can pause
one more time here searching
to remember when I offered change
or leftover food to anyone as a cardinal
stops for a discarded crust.


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Dennis Etzel Jr. lives in Topeka, Kansas with Carrie and the boys where he teaches English at Washburn University. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, BlazeVOX, Fact-Simile, 1913: a journal of poetic forms, 3:AM, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM, and others.

The Corner of 24th and San Gabriel – Robin Lanehurst

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Photo: Aaron Meacham

I sat on the curb of the laundromat, squishing ants between my fingers, checking my phone every few minutes. Heat simmered in the asphalt parking lot, tangible and sticky, rose through the curb and my cut-offs, and the still air gave no relief – but at least the air and sky made me imagine I could be free, instead of sticking to the plastic chairs inside the laundromat, the heavy air perfumed with detergent, weighing me down like Dorothy in the field just outside of the Emerald City, bewitched. The trail of ants, immune like most non-humans to human tribulations, continued to wind through the grubby building, little specks of black on the gritty tile, occasionally detoured by a hairband gathering dust, by a crumb of detergent.

Before I moved to this neighborhood, to West Campus, I had a washer and dryer in my house, on the second floor. A shelf for the detergent. White bottles of bleach and periwinkle bottles of fabric softener. I would fold my boyfriend’s underwear neatly, into a Kon-Mari square, then crinkle it into a ball and shove it into his underwear drawer. I wasted a lot of time that way.

People began to leave the church across San Gabriel, tossing themselves through the thin wooden doors. It wasn’t a real church; it wasn’t a building that was built to be a church. Groups rented it out for swing-dancing or student group meetings or birthday parties. A mom and dad holding a baby in a mauve outfit and an older couple, white-haired, holding onto each other, picked across the uneven sidewalk to wait at the crosswalk.

In the other direction, crossing 24th, just one block away from Lamar, from the hill that rolls down to kiss it on both sides, from the no-left-turn sign ignored by students and state workers and bikers in their tight rubber uniforms, in this direction was a corner store. It had tried to fashion itself after the corner taquerias you could find off of Rundberg or North Lamar or Stassney, but this particular iteration felt tidier and less real. Its clientele consisted of students, mostly, who lived in the new high rise building that stood over the store like a bully with his knees on your shoulders, pinning you down, making you feel like nothing and like the most important thing. I always thought college students seemed to like that feeling.

Then the light changed and the traffic on 24th slowed to a stop and the students crossed from the corner store and the churchgoers crossed from the building-that-wasn’t-a-church, and a woman on a bike in a Jimmy John’s uniform flew through the intersection, platinum-haired, bright-haired, hair wispy at the edges but thick in the middle, the kind of hair you’d like to pull, the kind of hair you’d like to wrap around your wrists, tie into knots, and she stuck her tongue out, radical, loud, unapologetic, and she cut through the laundromat parking lot to avoid the light. She never once stopped moving. She rolled through the steaming asphalt and cut back across San Gabriel, and then probably to MLK and Nueces to pick up her next delivery.

She is an anarchist, marches with Antifa, covers her face during rallies. Some of them have automatic rifles slung across their shoulders, bobbing next to their heads like scorpion tails, but she holds the pole which lifts the Trump piñata above the crowd, throws matches. I can see is her hands, soft and brown, I want to feel the tips of her manicured nails dig into my wrists, pointy and orange. She has stuffed her hair into a skullcap, but I can see it spraying out against the nape of her neck like mist from a wave, crashing on a rock.

We live in a house, one of those wild houses with five bedrooms and six roommates, the guy who sleeps on the couch and pays fifty dollars in rent, the feral cats coming to the back door to drink water and catch spiders, the fundraiser parties for top surgeries, for bail, for car repairs. Her favorite drink is gin, an angry drink. Harsh. Leaves you with a burn, a headache. Painful and sweet, going down. She wipes her wet hands on her black jeans.

My phone alarm went off and I checked my laundry: wet. I hadn’t done the wash in months. It had been too hot. I had been too tired. I had collected piles of t-shirts and bras, the black pants I had to wear to work, the polo shirts stained with spaghetti sauce and wine. The smell of the laundromat unsteadied me, the room went dizzy.

Our room in the house is the smallest one. Small – but we don’t have to share. The central air isn’t connected to this room, so we leave the fan on, we rent a window unit from the Rent-a-Center next to the HEB on Springdale. Keep the door closed, so when we come home after our shifts, peel the red and black polyester away from our wet skin, we lay naked on our bed, right in the line of fire from the air blast, and I kiss the cold, hard tips of her toes like peanuts.

I like the delivery job, more than the waitressing I used to do. I like the bike, the heat, the sunshine. I like speeding through intersections, like puzzles, my body the missing piece. I like the hill down Windsor, where it crashes into Lamar and then recoils back into a different road, into 24th, where the students start buzzing out of apartments and corner stores and pubs, I like to imagine what they must look like from the sky. Ants, crawling toward an agreed-upon ending.

There weren’t ants in my apartment, but roaches, tiny roaches creeping up through the carpet, crawling through electric sockets. I lived in a furnished apartment around the corner, down San Gabriel. I cleaned the dingy windows, but no sunlight ever came in.


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Robin Lanehurst grew up in St. Louis, MO and is currently writing from Houston, Texas where they live with their wife and a small menagerie of pets. They am white, neurodiverse, and identify as queer and gender non-binary. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Coe Review, Apricity Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Re:Fiction, and More Queer Families. 

Body Sculpt: Suffer for Beauty – Addison Herron-Wheeler

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Photo: Viktor Talashuk

She went in wanting the standard procedure, about 50 percent less body fat, no more skin on the eyelids, just lashes fluttering from the skull, and a sculpting procedure to get rid of every wrinkle, dimple, cellulite ridge, and blemish.

The red on her cheeks was washed clean, the red spots on her breasts and thighs erased. Her hairlines was brought forward so her blond bangs dangled close to the long lashes.

She also opted for the stakes driven into her heels to improve her posture and keep her spine straight. The gossamer gown they had given her, which at first clung to her every crevice and curve like a hug, now hung loose over a stick-like frame. She thought she could feel her ribs growing.

Her blood was thinned, her saliva replaced with perfume. Her ears were made smaller; her nose was removed. They cut off the tips of her fingers to make them proportional to her feet.

When it was all done, she put on a black, velvet robe and looked in the mirror. “You have to suffer for beauty” she mouthed, her thin lips pursed, her skin glowing neon blue.

She felt her ribs heaving as though they wanted to escape her body. She smiled, batting her eyelids, feeling the velvet on her tight skin. “You have to suffer.”


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Addison Herron-Wheeler is editor of OUT FRONT Magazine, web editor of New Noise Magazine, and an avid sci-fi and metal nerd. Her first collection of fiction, Respirator, will be out in 2020 on Spaceboy Books

Diaries of a Lost Pregnancy – Amanda E.K.

 

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Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞

 

Diaries of a Lost Pregnancy

5.18.17

Yes, Doctor, I will take a pregnancy test. I’ve been nauseous since last Thursday.

I’m in pain. I’m three days late.

5.24.17

Pelvic ultrasound to try and figure out this pain. Still haven’t heard back from the doctor.

5.30.17

I bought a stick on my way home from work. Called doctor again and they still won’t release my results. This all feels a bit dystopian and surreal.

A little too Twin Peaks: The Return.

My pain is invalidated by the people who can help me.

I’ve been nauseous and I’m never nauseous and my boobs hurt as though gripped in a vice.

Oh kill this thing inside me if it does indeed exist! 

Drinking wine and eating Twinkies that I bought along with the store brand stick. 

My husband is out of the country. I’m scared and alone.

5.31.17 

6:30 am: 

The test is positive

11:59 pm:

I wonder if it would be a boy or a girl. I stretch my face in the mirror, imagining the combination of our features. Not that I want it. It’s only thought-play.

I don’t go to bed. I go for a walk after dark, to Observatory Park, walking in shadows, spinning on playground spinners, stumbling up a tree, swinging as high as I can go for as long as Radiohead’s “Ful Stop” plays on headphones.

I need to be higher, or lower, and since I don’t have any digging tools, up I go.

Sometimes the traffic outside my window sounds like music.

I scheduled an abortion outside an elementary school.

6.1.17

Started miscarrying during my preschool students’ graduation.

Started crying in front of the families, saying how much their children have meant to me. Several moms teared up and gave me hugs. 

My student Mariah asked me: Ms. Amanda, why are you crying? Me: I have a tummy ache. 

Crying after coming back from the bathroom, finding blood, not knowing what was happening to my body, my co-teacher asking if I’m okay and I shake my head, dissolve into tears.

I translated a message into Arabic for Elyas’s mom about how he’s been one of my favorite students and I’ll miss him. She teared up and hugged me and I felt such love for her. Translated a message into Spanish for Ricardo’s mom. I will miss the daily diversity of being a classroom teacher.

I will miss my beautiful little family.


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Amanda E.K. is the editor-in-chief of Denver’s Suspect Press. She’s also a writing instructor and a longstanding member of the Knife Brothers writing group. Her work has been featured on the Denver Orbit podcast and on Mortified Live. She has work in Suspect Press, Birdy, Jersey Devil Press, the 2018 Punch Drunk Press Poetry anthology, and Green Briar Review. She’s currently working on a memoir about her sexual development while growing up in evangelical purity culture, and she is co-writing a television series. FB: /AmandaEK  Twitter: @AmandaEKwriter  Insta: @amanda.ek.writer

Temple of Christ – Amanda E.K.

 

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Photo by Bianca Berg

 

 

Temple of Christ

In the dressing room, pre-photoshoot, the others start to strip down and change into their costumes. I stand frozen, clothes in my arms that I planned to change into in the bathroom, but now that everyone’s changing out in the open I feel prudish for seeking privacy.

 

I’m taken back to middle school, high school locker rooms—to changing rooms at the pool, and to sleepovers where I was the only one who seemed to be anxious about showing my body. The only one who seemed to think that bodies weren’t for flaunting, or even for being comfortable letting other people see. 

 

I hear that old voice tell me: “This isn’t allowed for you, even if it’s allowed for others.” It’s the voice that tells me to lessen myself, to withdraw, to separate. (Be in the world, not of it.) It’s a childlike feeling, like when adults tell you to plug your ears and close your eyes because you’re not old enough to know what they know.

 

I was told my body was a temple of Christ, and though I’m no longer a Christian I’m alarmed to realize I still believe this. Not that my body belongs to Jesus like a temporary gift to take care of—but that it’s something to earn. I still believe the sight of my naked body must be earned. That I shouldn’t reveal it to just anyone, and that the people who do see me and touch me should feel privileged to do so.

 

Where is the line between vanity and self-respect?

 

The Church made me believe my body is nothing but sexual.

 

Standing in the corner of the room, awkward and quiet, I’m surprised and frustrated to realize I still have these inclinations toward body-shyness (especially since I spend most of my time at home in the nude). 

 

It feels wrong to see the other women’s naked breasts, their butts. I try not to look, but can’t avoid it. But for them it seems like nothing, completely natural. 

 

I think: Should I be just as comfortable? Is that really okay?

 

So I take off my shirt (facing the wall). I feel silly for my discomfort. (It’s no big deal, after all.) Maybe I’m worried I’ll be aroused, and that arousal is inappropriate. But it’s not that. It’s hard to reframe messages instilled when you are young. But now that I’m aware I can start.


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Amanda E.K. is the editor-in-chief of Denver’s Suspect Press. She’s also a writing instructor and a longstanding member of the Knife Brothers writing group. Her work has been featured on the Denver Orbit podcast and on Mortified Live. She has work in Suspect Press, Birdy, Jersey Devil Press, the 2018 Punch Drunk Press Poetry anthology, and Green Briar Review. She’s currently working on a memoir about her sexual development while growing up in evangelical purity culture, and she is co-writing a television series. FB: /AmandaEK  Twitter: @AmandaEKwriter  Insta: @amanda.ek.writer

AFTERMATH + AFTERMATH – Grace Gardiner

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Photo: Satoshi Urakawa

AFTERMATH

like wind         pain takes

……………shape               against body

 

cuts its             portrait

…………..out of in          with flesh

 

the frame         left

…………..when               adrenaline

 

lets                   the outside

………..remind             the skin

 

where              you end

………….there                you begin

 

AFTERMATH

when the woman corrects

……….her should to could

 

…………………….as in you ­______

……………………………..have died

 

……………………you think the swath

…………from c to s-h the payment

 

you might use to rewind

…………your plural wounds

 

……………………the car & you both

……………………………….just two bodies

 

…………………….untethered subsumed

………….by you only

 

to playact the rift

………..one form seeks from another


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Grace Gardiner is a British-American non-binary poet and burgeoning intermedia installation artist. They are currently pursuing their PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where they live with their partner and one too many brown recluses. Find them online at pearlsthatwere.tumblr.com.

The Hands That Caught Me – Sarah Lilius

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Photo: Eberhard Grossgasteiger

The hands that caught me as I entered
the world were the same hands that examined
me at sixteen, back flattened against a white sheet.

There was no discussion of sexual activity,
birth control, or even menstruation.
This man revered by my mother,

told me I could lose weight, told me
to diet, that in his country
people are hungry.

My own hands clutched the fabric,
tried to not cry the instant
tears that would come hot in the car.

My place in the world
welled inside me like the ghost
of a boulder, great and silent.


Sarah Lilius

Sarah Lilius is the author of four chapbooks, including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017), and Thirsty Bones (Blood Pudding Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Entropy, and Fourteen Hills. She lives in Virginia with her husband and sons. Her website is sarahlilius.com.