“bird bodies” by Alicia Bessette

so frail when they faded down that corridor.
no use crying out—the mask
swallowed my mouth. besides,
only the metal bed had ears.

dreamed of brother guzzling air from buckets.
sister swinging high, shoes flying.

woke with wormy scars, pecked, not knowing
forge or forget

*

they watched me binge
and didn’t say stop

or okay or someday
you’ll miss blood

because it’s bright and
if nothing else, yours.

after, i lay on mealy
ground, one eye closed

making my fingers feathers
that floated over chimney

beyond sky. how else to
escape a belly so like

mouth, emptiest when full?
choice and demon both,

the eating. maybe. but my own
fingers blamed me. still do

*

wings trace loops;
sculpture shows me.
its streamers, frozen
above grass, tip and
slide me through.

if only arms spiraled into wings.
how i flapped at pretend edge
aching to belong.

now at real edge
i cup my hands
and whisper mending
mending

 

 

Alicia Bessette’s poems have appeared in Anima, Atlanta Review and The Main Street Rag. Her debut novel Simply From Scratch (Dutton/Plume) was an international bestseller. Visit her website at www.aliciabessette.com

 

“space bodies” by Alicia Bessette


Photo Credit: TL Sherwood

half my atoms: the violently
vented innards of ancient stars.

half of hurtling: hurt.

sometimes it strikes eons after impact.
like one random night—old slap still
singing, old gorge still gouging—i go
outside, gaze up, mistake bright chaos
for home.

*

inside my head: labyrinths.

inside labyrinths: crystals.

should trauma jolt them loose:
kitchen tilts. plates supernova
from shelves.

*

neptune sounds like breath
pulsing from ocean depth,
yet—

if nothing is never not hurtling,
then nothing is never not hurt.

no wonder i shout myself awake.

no wonder i rise and stand
before the window.

all those lights to swallow

 

 

Alicia Bessette’s poems have appeared in Anima, Atlanta Review and The Main Street Rag. Her debut novel Simply From Scratch (Dutton/Plume) was an international bestseller. Visit her website at www.aliciabessette.com

 

“I am Trying to be More Rock Less” by Emily Ellison


Photo Credit: TL Sherwood

wreckage
less crumble
gathered in my
crumbled
hands
less back of a back
hunched in longing
for the sandstone
skin      less
steam
of my fissures
less atmosphere less
black less feather
less mouth
less

floating my ache as a sigh

less ache and ache and

sigh
like the wind
of two
bodies
eroding

less

return
less grain when returning
myself to myself
less conversion less

myself
as dust
swept by
my own eyelashes weeping

less along the scuffled
grounds less
oh god
am I
this mess of
ravens

 

 

Emily Ellison is a second year MFA poet at Texas State University, where she also works as an Teaching Assistant for their English faculty. Her work has appeared in Southword, After the Pause, and Haiku Journal, and is upcoming in several places. Emily lives in San Marcos, Texas with two cats and an abundance of plants (withering at the moment).

 

“Impediment” by Stacey Park


Photo Credit: TL Sherwood

I talk too mulch. Too mulch. I mean,
too much. Steeped in cheek blush,
synapses fire quick, in front of this
lovely listener. Message received,
on the way to delivered, altered
not by malfunction
devoid of me but sabotaged
by shadow-me. Tiny, troll,
shadow-me hanging on epiglottis,
throwing sticks between u’s and c’s.
So long I thought these impediments
were outsourced punishments
but these impediments are me
happening to me—can’t be cool
in front of this patient one,
this listening one, this precious one
I want to kiss. I will want to mess it up,
to make mulch of a too good thing.

 

 

Stacey Park is currently an MFA poetry student. Previously, she has worked as an adjunct instructor and holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto. Her previous writing can be read in RipRap and Foothill.  

 

“Blue House” by Amy Alexander


“Karlen’s Vessel” by Kathy O’Meara.

She takes spider silk and oils from the next town over.
She takes flowers blue and deep black.

She dreams of sonnets and tries to get the words out.

She held the sprout of her baby, the tissues like a sodden desert bloom packed with unexpected rainwater, in her refrigerator for five days.

I’ve got a dead baby in my fridge, she thinks.
Out of nowhere she stifles a quick laugh: Inappropriate

She doesn’t know how to do this.
She examines the so-called “products of her conception.”
Looks for fingers or a spine.

The house is quiet, all the children in yellow, red or white houses and the man gone off to work.
She pours what’s left into the palm of her hand so she can hold it once. It stains her fingers like berries.

She shushes the slightly sick shame
Only say you looked at it, she reminds herself.

All the songs she would have sung feel stuck in her throat like soup cream.
All the diapers she would have hung in the sun flap in her mind and snap in the grief wind.

She promises not to mention them.

 

 

Amy Alexander is a poet and writer living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She has published work in Quarterly West, The Cream City Review, The Coil, Louisiana Literature, and many other journals. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship.

 

“She Was Always So Thirsty” by Jessica Mehta


“Blue World” by Kathy O’Meara.

I packed my mom in Tupperware
from the dollar store. She always wanted
to go to the Bahamas, even before
she’d gone to sand—before her bones
could be mistaken for broken
shells. I don’t know if it’s bad
to divide ashes, leave a slice
of femur in the Caribbean foam,
a chip of coccyx in Oregon waterfalls
gushing like overdue orgasms.
How does a person want to be
after our skin’s burned to crisps,
the only organ capable
of holding all our worst messes
together? She never said but I felt
her wailing through my insides
demanding turquoise waters, a cleanse,
a starting over. But then again,
who’s surprised? She was always so thirsty.

 

 

Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a poet and novelist, and member of the Cherokee Nation. Jessica is the author of ten books including the forthcoming Savagery and Drag Me Through the Mess. Previous books include Constellations of My Body, Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, The Last Exotic Petting Zoo, and The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site atwww.jessicatynermehta.com.

 

“Heptad for Returning from War” by TJ Reynolds


“Ascension” by Kathy O’Meara

I

Writing poems after war is like holding up
a wall
with a baby wipe
and
a handful of grass.

 

II

Teaching feels like sex
for a large man
at first
a flailing performance
that works out most times
despite the sweat and
lumbar pain.

 

III

I watched my wife pull
3 kids from under
the pale blue
hospital gown. Her dignity spit out
like teeth
into a silver tray we all forgot
to empty.

 

IV

My children grow like
roots learning
the only song
they know.

 

V

Sit with me and we’ll talk of pain.

Who here holds
the first stone?

Like the stray warning
shot from a sergeant’s
muzzle into a boy’s left leg.

That, he will never forget.

 

VI

Taxis taste like meat
to my .762

Is this Sunni brine
or
a sip of thick water?

 

VII

Part of me hopes            bullets
work with Bluetooth.

Maybe when they punch
through skin and bone
they upload souls
that won’t rightly belong
in    our Father’s    heaven.

 

 

 

TJ Reynolds has published non-fiction and poetry with NAILED Magazine, The Hour After Happy Hour Review, and F(r)iction Magazine. From 2004-2005, TJ served an infantryman in Iraq. He has 3 gorgeous children and works as an English Instructor at Cypress College, CA.

 

“This Funeral is Boring” by griffin epstein


“Adriatic Freedom” by Kathy O’Meara

(Jonah Meadow Adels, 1984 – 2013)

Let’s talk about molecules
pattern repetition object to object
sand dunes, cellphone batteries and onion skins, all alike

The way plants rot (soft limits, new life)
from the perspective of science, we are separate
but entangled, like the hair still stuck in your dorm room drain

Try to answer the question
if a spoon on a string will sway forever
how long does sound bounce through a clouding sky?
(Old messages deleted from my answering machine,
the gentle break of your two dads crying)

Say for argument’s sake, I’m right
in another world the deer went willing
(laid herself down on the midnight road)
and you dodged the semi

Like the time you got so drunk you fell out of a moving car
and didn’t die
just got up and wandered off
looking for another ride

 

 

griffin epstein is a non-binary white settler, community mental health worker, service user and college professor. Their writing has appeared in Southword, Pindeldyboz, and a forthcoming issue of Grain, as well as the academic journals Social Identities and Disability Studies Quarterly. They play in the Toronto post-punk band SPOILS.

 

“Geese” by Chaya Bhuvaneswar


“Witness” by Kathy O’Meara.

One summer in Queens, two strangers set my hair on fire.
It was thick then but also fine and soft, a baby’s hair, down to my butt.
I was thirteen.
Summer day camp, a younger boy I called “gosling” got a buzz cut.
Showed off muscles, skinny arms white-blond with soft down. Age nine.
He asked me, “What are you?”, then stayed, eyes following.
He’d press in close, without me touching him.
Where he lived, girls first were surprised, then bored by motherhood.
Those girls used formula, rested. Then calculated just how long
a baby could be left alone, the precise
Measures, milligrams, of white stuff they obtained to feed themselves, injecting, warm,
Transforming jagged into soft, pain into bland, blood into circles of gold light,
Caressing veins. Their not-so-secret formula, costly of time, hours, even days,
During which baby was a thing and not a set of eyes watching, alive, merging, learning.
Mainly a benign thing, cute and cuddly, to settle down, to put somewhere,
To be settled, when baby breaks its benign mask of sleep with raging cries
And eyes, watching, counting, needing. Measuring. Judging mothers for using formula.
My gosling’s mother was a heroin addict, and he was thin like her.
“White trash” the name other white people had called them in the projects, he said.
I said, shush
The ones I hate, who hate me: Never trash to me. Little gosling.
Out at Jones Beach, he swam to me, mocking my new and chubby breasts in my tight suit, but then when no one saw us, tried to burrow in.
He ducked under my dark mammy arm, blond fuzz of him hidden by my brown.
I was a thirteen-year-old mother then, in that water,
hair streaming behind me like an island madonna’s. In the Atlantic waves, anonymous,
I had to be his mother or his nanny, no one knew.
Except for him, who took for granted he was safe.
That I would never trade him for some secret stash, betray his hurt blue vivid eyes, pluck out his bird-wing eyelashes.
“Hey baby bird,” I’d said, letting him climb upon my back in deep water.
I swam to shore and sand, laughter and dark, to fall asleep, once he was safe and dry.
Hours later I woke up. The popping, breaking sounds of a bonfire.
Camp counselor, age nineteen or twenty, jonesing and stoned, rolled a hash joint narrower than a child’s finger,
lighted a small torch from the fire and carefully touched ends of my hair, incinerating princess curls, black whorls on sand, before I woke.
Screaming out, crying in fear, holding my head, I registered
White stranger holding his roach and smoking it,
While Gosling laughed and shouted, “Check how he burned that Hindoo bitch’s hair!
“He burned the trash.”

 

 

Chaya Bhuvaneswar‘s debut story collection, WHITE DANCING ELEPHANTS, is available for pre-order now at dzancbooks.org and at Amazon.com. She is a practicing physician and writer whose work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, Tin House, Michigan Quarterly Review The Awl, jellyfish review, aaduna and forthcoming in Litro Magazine and elsewhere, with new poetry in apt, Ellipsis, Former Cactus magazine and forthcoming in Hobart and Natural Bridge. Her poetry and prose juxtapose Hindu epics, other myths and histories, and the survival of sexual harassment and racialized sexual violence by diverse women of color. She recently received the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, and a Henfield award for her writing. Her work received four Pushcart Prize anthology nominations this year. Follow her on Twitter at @chayab77 for upcoming readings and events.

 

“Did You Ever Switch from One Drug to Another?” by Ace Boggess


“Ancient Vessel” by Kathy O’Meara

[rehab workbook]

The straw knows no master.
It worships at its favored temple,
strays toward momentary cults
of joy. I dabbled. Chased the high,
the dragon. Chased security.
Chaste because I lost a step.
I’m not a proud man often enough to matter.
I remember crawling over carpet,
feeling for fragments of pills that flew
in the crushing. Sometimes I found them;
others, rocks—how could I tell
until one nostril smelled the ancient corpse,
membranes burning like matchheads?
I tried to snort the Earth in one long line.

 

 

Ace Boggess is author of three books of poetry, most recently Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River Styx, North Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.