a vertigo – leah white

siyan ren

a.

the world is much more wonderful when you think that it is
the world is much more wonderful you can think that
think the world is wonderful and it is much more wonderful
you think the world is wonderful but it is much more wonderful
than you think the world is more wonderful if you think it is
the whirl is munch munch, one of the four with your shrink wrap it is
various things create a vertigo.…………..yes it is

 

b.

Cherie is blurry weary
worry is sorry
starry theory
merely heavy

I flounder
fluid flowing flute flipping
flicks leap end flap
flinch flake

varied things create a vertigo
you think the world is
wonderful but it is
vertical…………..then vitriol…………..then vigil

 

c.

a vertigo as in heightened contrast
as in soft soft soft…………hard
as a confuse……..new view that feels

everything written on water
a room of water
I flounder…………for the words

try to flinch in water
try to have a scare try to have a
have is
in water


Leah White is an MFA candidate at University of Colorado Boulder. Originally from Tempe, Arizona, she currently teaches creative writing, works on Timber Journal, and runs a reading series in Boulder.

Photo: Siyan Ren

self-portrait as ghost with dementia – nathan elias

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Nathan Elias is the author of the chapbooks A Myriad of Roads That Lead to Here: A Novelette and Glass City Blues: Poems. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction) from Antioch University Los Angeles, and he has served as editor on the literary journal Lunch Ticket. His work has appeared in Entropy, PANK, Hobart, Barnstorm, and elsewhere. His films and screenplays have been official selections or finalists in festivals such as Cannes Court Métrage, Glass City Film Festival, Canadian Film Centre, Texas Independent Film Festival, and both Hollywood and New York Screenplay Contests. He has taught a variety of creative writing classes, including fiction, poetry, and screenwriting. | www.Nathan-Elias.com | @_NathanElias

Photo: Meriç Tuna

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miracle: an excerpt from the diary of lea knight -attica adams

Miracle (2)

1. Beginnings
Menace is in the air. Tragedies are in the making. Fear passes from each to each. It has always been this way.

2. Parents
Mine were violent and all-powerful. They even knew this about each other. Father sarcastically called her “The Queen” because she was cruel and self-absorbed. Mother called him “The Minotaur,” after the creature of incalculable fury.
Jack’s were a little different. His mother was violent, but his father was not. His mother beat him. His father was rarely around. Jack’s father called Jack’s mother “The Witch” because of her sharp tongue. His mother called his father “The Goat Man” for his lasciviousness, for he liked the ladies.

3. Dog Stories
I never had a dog when I was little, but Jack did, a little Boston Terrier named Pepper. And Pepper was everything to Jack, his baby to take care of, his friend to keep him company. A creature pure in its love.
A teenaged boy told me once that his dog was run over by a car. The dog was alive but suffering. He knew he would have to shoot it to put it out of its misery. As the dog lay beside the road, the boy reached his hand out. The dog licked his hand. “The Goddamn thing licked my hand,” the boy said. He was crying when he told me this.
Two weeks ago, in this town, someone tied a stray dog to a pole. The person poured accelerant on the dog and set it on fire. The dog lived for a few days, during which time many people rallied to save it, and when it died many were left feeling empty, with nothing to do and no one to blame.
Last summer, at a festival, I saw a black dog. Its owners stopped to let a child see it. The child was a very young, a boy, not yet able to talk. It was a remarkable dog. I know this because I saw it through the child’s eyes. Its owners went around with it on the end of a string! It had two shiny marbles for eyes! Its hair was short and velvety like the inside of a jewelry box! Nearby, people sold confections and balloons, so there was a flurry of buying. Most people headed toward the river where canons were being fired and men wore uniforms from long-ago wars. Silently, the boy sent his finger forth and touched the dog’s little black anus. The mother was calm. She looked at her child with sadness, as though she had seen something far ahead or had just awakened from a dream about death.
There is a place some humans believe in called “the Rainbow Bridge,” a realm where pets go after death and are restored to full health and happiness. It seems to me a place like the Big Rock Candy Mountain that hobos sing of, a land of lemonade springs and a lake of stew, a land where jails are made of tin and you can walk right out again. In these places, there are no sad consequences to anything pleasurable in life. At the Rainbow Bridge, there’s unending sunshine, room to play, and fresh water and food all the time. It’s a place of reunion, where humans someday rejoin their pets. I’ve heard people say something like, “My Buddy passed over the Rainbow Bridge today.” They say through their tears that now their pet is running free.
We walked to school every morning and Pepper followed us. He knew what classroom we were in and jumped until he could see us through the window. It made everybody laugh, even the teacher. When he was satisfied, he would lie by the door, waiting for us. He would wait all day. As Soren Kierkegaard wrote in his diary, “The yardstick for a human being is: how long and to what degree he can bear to be alone, devoid of understanding with others.” Pepper understood us. This was his proper function, and when were together, we were happy.

4. Punishments
I slept in a room at the end of a long dark hallway on the second-story of our house.
Once I let a rope down for Jack to climb on. The idea was to let him and Pepper live secretly in my room. It made sense at the time.
But Mother heard us and nailed the window shut. And that was the end of that, except for the punishments.
Mother punished me by making me sit under the big tree in our front yard. I sat there for many hours. While there, I developed a relationship with an owl that lived in the tree. The owl became my confessor, listening to all my problems, considering all my questions.
I asked it, “Do you believe in God?” I said, “I have read The Golden Book About God, but there is no picture of God in the book, only pictures of birds, insects, cherries, and stars.”
In my childish way, I wondered whether these things might be God or at least manifestations of Him. I still wonder.
Jack’s punishment began with his mother yelling at the top of her lungs and his father’s grand escape. The Goat Man fled the house, yelling that his witchy wife was nothing but trouble. “If I wanted to take my troubles with me,” he said, “I wouldn’t bother leaving.”
The next day I saw the marks on Jack’s face and arms, the places where she had hit him, making blood rise angrily under his skin.

5. Home
One day I felt good, so I broke into song at the kitchen table. This was rude, Mother said, so she made me sit under the tree again. I sat there for many hours.
It became a regular thing.
The punishment was so frequent that I began to study the situation, and I saw she didn’t care if I stayed under the tree or not. She only wanted me out of her sight. Then I was free to join Jack and Pepper in their explorations.
Jack and I found an old cabin in the forest, and we decorated it with objects we found at the dump. It was homey. We had chairs, a table, a painting of an angel protecting children while they crossed a bridge, and a vase for flowers. We had a whole set of World Book Encyclopedias. We had a circular rug made of old, braided rags sewn together. We gave the rug to Pepper, who slept on it in a sliver of light that came through the cabin window. And while Pepper slept, I read encyclopedias to Jack and quizzed him about the summaries they held.
When we were in the cabin, we never pictured ourselves changed by grief, growing up, or growing old. Like children in a fairy tale, we would be children forever and eventually all would be well.

6. A Cat
I was the one who discovered it. It was a kitten, so tiny it was sleeping in one of father’s shoes. Mother wanted Father to carry it off, but he wouldn’t. She wanted him to kill it but he said no. He didn’t want the cat. He just didn’t want to bow to her commands. He was the Minotaur, the crazy bull at the heart of the labyrinth of life.
I fed the cat and it learned to trust me.
Mother said it would all come to no good.
One day I saw the cat’s belly was large. Mother saw it too and said the cat would have kittens. She blamed Father. What were they going to do now with a bunch of cats? This would upset our stability. Our lives would now be so much worse. An argument ensued. Insults were traded. To end the fight, Father threw a mug of beer at her head. She ducked, so it didn’t hit her. It exploded against the wall.
It was quiet then, enough to hear the mice scurrying behind walls.
Time went on.
It was in the fall when the air was bitter with the smell of burning leaves. That’s when I found the cat dead under a bush.
As Kierkegaard wrote in his diary, “Great is my grief, limitless. Since my earliest childhood, a barb of sorrow has lodged in my heart. As long as it stays I am ironic—if it is pulled out I shall die.”
Mother saw the dead cat too and was filled with a magnificent rage. She would give me a lesson, she said.
She had already told me long ago how babies were made, how they were born. Her descriptions of cutting, blood, and pain had left me scarred and afraid.
And now she said she would show me something. She went into the house and got a knife. She wanted to expose the kittens, to show me how they would be hairless and blind, like little rats, she said, like filthy little rats. She sliced the cat open but there were no babies, only a big tumor.
No kittens. This enraged her even more. She threw the cat and the tumor onto our pile of burning leaves. The flames curled everything up, turning it black before reducing it to almost nothing.
After this, I dreamed that the cat had only looked dead. Really, she was alive, except I was the only one who knew it. The dream gave me a private thrill.

7. Irony
One day Jack’s mother chased him around the yard hitting him with a broom handle. She had done this before with other objects, like belts, wire hangers, or shoes. This time, Pepper was barking in outrage.
Have you ever seen an animal killed before your eyes? To see it pink-tongued and bright-eyed, then still. At first you think it will get up and strut like before. You think it just has to. Then you notice it looks so much smaller. You want to ask it, “Where did you suddenly go?”
That afternoon when we returned from school, a dirty shovel was resting next to the house. And that was the end of that.
Some believe in heaven. Some believe in the Rainbow Bridge. Others say the earth is our mother, and she loves us. What the truth is, I can’t say. Though I’ve seen once-buried things and they didn’t look like they were loved by the earth.
After all that happened, I would dream I gave birth to some sad thing, a cancer, a rat, a dog with a broken face, a human fetus distorted beyond repair.
Then, years later when I did have children, they were born beautiful but dead. This is Kierkegaard’s irony.

8. Endings
I knew a woman who had to put her ailing dog to sleep and could not forgive herself.
She showed me a photograph and said to me, “This is my baby.”
There are people who can’t abide a person referring to a dog as their baby. They think it’s silly, or weak, or that the comparison isn’t apt. But I abide.
The creature sighs just as a baby does. It draws close for comfort and drools on your shirt. It yelps in its sleep and we imagine it has nightmares, so we hasten to relieve its trouble. A dog is a placeholder for a thing that’s missing or, in many cases, it’s the thing itself.
“My baby was my everything,” the woman said, “I miss him so much. I miss his mouth, his velvet chest, the way he walks, the way he snuggles, I miss it all.”
The way he walks, she said, the way he snuggles, as if the dog was alive in her mind.
Then she remembered her dog was dead. She said, not to me but to God, “Bring my baby back. His ears and feet. Bring him back, his soft skin, his loving grin; I’m sorry. I did this to him. Why? My baby.”
She was crossing “The Bridge of Sighs.”
In his diary Kierkegaard mentioned “The Bridge of Sighs,” which is the enclosed bridge in Venice which passes over the Rio di Palazzo and which condemned men crossed on their way to their lead dungeons. He said this bridge is the path we all must take on our way to eternity.
Last night I dreamed about the cat again. I was looking out through my childhood eyes, but also the eyes I have now. I was looking at Mother illuminated by fire as she stood against a black and starless sky. She was about to throw the cat onto the burning leaves.
“No,” I shouted, “she’s still alive!” In response, she threw the cat’s body onto the fire. It was as though I had made it happen. After a sharp instant of grief, a sense almost of being sliced in two, I saw the cat leap from the flames and disappear into the night.
I could only stand perplexed.
What had I witnessed, a miracle or all hope leaving?
Even now I have no clue why the universe exists as it is.

 

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Theresa Williams (Attica Adams) has twice received the Individual Excellence Grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including Gargoyle, Hunger Mountain, and The Sun. Her Sun stories can be read here: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/contributors/theresa-williams . Her novel, The Secret of Hurricanes was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. She is currently working on a graphic novel, The Diary of Lea Knight. 

Art: Attica Adams (Theresa Williams)

 

unfolding – mela blust

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daughter is the sun
the religion i once shunned
i place my hand on my belly
where life once bloomed
mother womb’s fertile whisper
the musings of god
as the waning rays of child-light fade
i can no longer hold her in the gentle
butterfly net
her wings
budding now through cerise skin –
how love can be
a guide into the ether
how i cannot let it be a trap

 

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Mela Blust is a moonchild, and has always had an affinity for the darkness. Her work has appeared in Isacoustic, Rust+Moth, Anti Heroin Chic, Califragile, and more. 

Photo: Suzanne D. Williams 

three scenes of heartache as told by a casual observer – grace nordgren

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One. My local Goodwill was nearly empty the week before Christmas. It was eight o’clock. I had ducked in with a friend, looking for refuge from the bitter weather. We were wrapped in coats that were too thin to keep us properly warm. But we didn’t care. As she browsed the CD collection, I of course gravitated over to the books. Worn paperbacks lay discarded in great quantities, adorned with yellow stickers of a garish color. They were marked with cheap prices, but no one seemed to be interested in them, as the shelves were full and the stacks high. Perhaps it was because they had once belonged to other people. Handling the books with care, I scanned the back covers and flipped the pages. A little volume caught my eye from its position on the pile. I picked it up, and almost discarded it once I realized it was a self-help book for troubled couples. For reasons I cannot explain I opened it, and browsed it page by page. The paragraphs were notated in black pen, and the handwriting was neat and legible in the margins. I read none of the notes, except for one, written in large letters under a heavily circled passage in the book: John- we really need to work on this. Please. I set the book down. It was three dollars.

Two. They lay there like dolls. Their human forms, splayed on the concrete, were barely distinguishable under the tarps. There were police and firemen standing over the bodies, and a small crowd was on the curb. My mother and I hurriedly crossed the street, and a woman who saw us on the sidewalk warned us to always be watchful when driving. And to never text on your cell phone. My mother put a hand on my back and asked me to keep explaining The Iliad to her. She stole sidelong glances at me as we walked down the grassy hill, too green and alive to exist right next door to death. The birds chirping was too cheerful, the sky too clear, and children at the park too lively. My mother bought me a smoothie, probably to take my mind off of the people. But I wasn’t thinking about them. I was engrossed in the story of Achilles playing out in my head. I was numb inside. As stony as the walls of Troy.

Three. My friend’s mother was waiting for us to meet her in the car. We were just leaving a shop, about to exit the mall. A strangled cry made us jump. We turned to see a woman tear towards a kiosk, running like the wind. She gasped and shouted at the saleswoman, so loudly we could hear her from twenty feet away. Her voice rose and cracked as she asked her if she had seen a small four-year old, all by himself. Her tears streamed down her face like lightning, her cries thundering through the mall. The saleswoman shook her head, and tried to placate the woman by dialing her phone, presumably to alert somebody, anybody. The woman spun around and began screaming the child’s name. Jack! Jack! Jack! Over and over. We stood there, unsure what to do. Perhaps some other people approached the woman, it’s hard to remember. I will forever feel guilty about how we chose to leave then. Later that night, in bed, in the dark, my friend shakily whispered that she hoped the woman found her son. I wish we had some way of knowing. On days like this, I resent being human.

 

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Bio: Grace Nordgren is a student from Denver, Colorado.  She is working towards acquiring a degree in English.  She enjoys daydreaming, pondering existence, and pomegranates.  This is her first published piece.

Photo: Prudence Earl

las lobas – lisa tellor kelley

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Women transform into wolves
and drink Shiraz made from smoke
and blackberries. They cut red
meat close to the bone, untie the forgotten,
strong warriors, burn gentle wild fires
and spread angel bait around before laying
down to sleep. They shelter the young
females from being stunned and eaten
and make them strong. Women

run with wolves and follow
a path straight to their soul
where their spirit connects
and nurtures the earth. With their souls
they listen to their mission
story. They write it

bone against bone, braid it
into hair, intermingle it into their war
cries rippling gentle and stern
from this wild, endangered species

 

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Bio: Lisa is the 2015 State of Illinois Emerging Writer of poetry. Currently, she is a lecturer of English composition at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and teaches creative writing at Lindenwood University Belleville-Illinois.  Lisa is the “name giver” of the River Bluff Review journal.  She is published in journals such as OVS-Organs of Voice & Speech, River Bluff Review, and Rhino.

 

Photo: Tahoe Beetschen 

two poems – juliet cook & j/j hastain

BABY_INTHEOVEN

Slumber Party
Stained teeth fall out
of the clouds,
start a thunder storm
of unforeseen fonts
writing their own love stories

while they crash and sink
themselves into drainage.

Wash them down to the bottom
of the ocean or keep them
as encrusted cheese maps
at the bottom of the oven.

Use them as part of a magazine ad photo
of Sylvia Plath inspired undergarments.

How many sadistic photo shoots
will fit into this board game
inspired by sharp, rattling molars
or carnivorous harps?

These teeth won’t burn in the crematorium
so you’ll have to hang them
out to dry alongside the laundry you just pulled out
of the washer, your mama’s old shirt
and fingerless gloves.

Fingernails hidden in the glove box
alongside a toy gun
that needed a friend.

 

Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach

A conduit or a tiny giant. I wanted to name him but stopped
myself from outreach. Focused on outflow
instead. I listened to his atonal stingers
and began to develop my own melodic pulse.

Tiny eyeballs could be shooting stars.
Tiny tears in the feedback loop
could be resources
and the leeches slip out

of our shit-
eating grins
as we grimace and steal milkshakes
from the food carts outside
the municipal court.
We’re going to start a riot
in which we suck the leeches out of the straws
and fling them at those who think they should be in control
of our blood. We’ve got a lot to show them

about blood. It can’t be owned. And it always
wins when combined into our home-
made flavors of farm fresh ice cream.

Last night, my abdomen felt so bloated
I thought I was going to explode like a giant cow.
Meaning tiny can turn into huge with one explosion.
Meaning expansion is meant to be.

 

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j/j hastain is a collaborator, writer and maker of things. j/j performs ceremonial gore. Chasing and courting the animate and potentially enlivening decay that exists between seer and singer, j/j hopes to make the god/dess of stone moan and nod deeply through the waxing and waning seasons of the moon.

Juliet Cook is a grotesque glitter witch medusa hybrid brimming with black, grey, silver, purple, and dark red explosions. She is drawn to poetry, abstract visual art, and other forms of expression. Her poetry has appeared in a peculiar multitude of literary publications. You can find out more at www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

 

Photo: Megan Tate

two poems – seth berg

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Meditation by Means of Front Stoop
Two blocks from here
an old man on a rocking chair blesses crickets:

if vibrations could determine direction,
perhaps we too could hear the wingsongs,

perhaps the old man himself would bless us,
perhaps these vibrations—flitting translucencies—

would bless the tiny sea at our feet,
give us morphine and meditation

and the knowledge that
not unlike the old man…

we are all simply figments.

 

Directions for Levitation when Body has Lost Meaning

Find a thicket in which you are no longer you;

scavenge for seeds, silt, and an eclipse;

in the evening, after visiting hours have ended,

saturate everything green, make the ground vanish;

when you wake to find that your body, too, has vanished,

hoist your hallucinations skyward, ascend.

 

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Seth Berg‘s first book, Muted Lines From Someone Else’s Memory, won the Dark Sky Books 2009 book contest. His second book, Aviary, co-authored withBradford K. Wolfenden II, won the 2015 Artistically Declined Twin Antlers Contest, and was released by Civil Coping Mechanisms in January of 2017. Other poems and short fiction can be found in Connecticut Review, 13th Warrior Review, Spittoon Literary Review, BlazeVOX, Heavy Feather Literary Review, The Montucky Review, Masque & Spectacle, and Lake Effect, among others. Recently, poems were anthologized in GTCPR Volume III and Daddy Cool. He lives in Minnesota with his two supernatural children, Oak and Sage, and his magical better half, Kori. He loves your face.

two poems – andrea jackson

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Curtain

A sharp toenail cuts across the sky,
slashes the dream
like a starched curtain.

On the other side eyes glint.
The curtain falls apart like a torn skirt
to reveal you,
crouched, hands trembling.

Why do you look so green?
Who has left us here to rot?
Can’t you see your great love
has brought us nothing?

 

When the Story Came Out

I stand on the beach and let the wind
pass through my body.
Stars trickle through the atmosphere.
I’ve lost whatever it was
that opened me to fantasies.
There were lovely times
with dolphins and moths,
always something new.
The soft-spoken garage attendant,
the spaniel with its head cocked,
and all the time a green haze
wrapped around our city,
magnifying sounds so they echoed wetly
in the empty street. It was on such a night,
maybe on that very night,
that the garage attendant
strangled the spaniel,
and when the story came out
we all wondered why.
An innocent and friendly dog.
Life is a given; it’s death we must explain.

 

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Andrea Jackson’s poetry and fiction have appeared most recently in Triggerfish Critical Review, Star 82 (*82) Review, Gyroscope Review, Eyedrum Periodically, Heron Tree, The Tishman Review, and The Apple Valley Review.  She has received 2 Pushcart nominations and one nomination for the Best of the Net Anthology, has an MFA from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and recently published Who Am I and Where Is Home? An American Woman in 1931 Palestine, described by Small Press Bookwatch as “an absolutely fascinating, deftly crafted read from cover to cover…an extraordinary, candid, engaging, account of an inherently interesting woman in an inherently interesting time.”

 

Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel

two poems – kathy o’fallon

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Longing Still the Ruin of My Existence
                                                      for Tom

I always thought he’d come back
like this, wrapped in his youth,
spook to my banshee.
The thin man, I’d once teased—
huddled like an Einstein
crouched in the basement trying
to figure things out: aeronautics,
magic tricks, why
our family made no sense.
Bred in his lab
like little white spirits
or gods called by name,
rats nibbled crumbs from his lips,
staved his hunger,
but the lure of the airplane glue
proved too fragrant to resist,
formulas floating
clear out of reach, and then Boom!
a hole in the paneling closer
to the boiler than one cared to think.
Our father, who art not in hell,
didn’t like that too much, the trapped
pet rats now scurrying to get out,
racing against the poison-filled smoke.

I always thought he’d come back like this,
show me a smile could be sober
without losing its bliss.
Oh, how I’ve missed you, I said,
ten years of loss melting at my feet.

Umbilical Cord

The gravel granite path across
the cemetery crackles like rock candy.
What I’d give for a piece
to suck like a thumb,
weaned from the nipple.

I take off my shoes
so the stones can scar
something into submission.
I don’t mean to dissect the worm,
but I’m glad to, first-born of eight—
we craved the same nourishment.

I scrape fingernails along tree bark,
and its dust stains my skin.
She is here, reclaiming my body.
I kneel and cling to exposed roots,
can’t think       which one to follow.
They reach where I can’t so I pull,
but they break into little carcasses.

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With great assistance from her mentors, Kathy OFallon‘s poems and short stories have been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, as well as three chapbooks.  She is a psychologist living in Fallbrook, California, self-proclaimed avocado capital of the world.  Without poetry, OFallon asks, how would she know her own heart?

Photo: Tomas Tuma