“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.

 

“Sign Language” by Kevin Bartlett


“untitled” by Kathy O’Meara.

Liquidation Sale:
Half-priced Lobotomies

Mix & Match
2 for 5:
Clog All Your Arteries

Sold at State Minimum:
Cigs, Booze, Lottery

I am NOT Responsible
for Lost or
Stolen Property

 

 

Kevin Bartlett was born and raised in Connecticut, and is currently a student at Texas Tech University.

 

“Suture Lines” by Sarena Tien


“Warsaw, 1939” by Jean Banas, acrylic on canvas.

This is when the world ends—
not with fire, not with ice,

but with dirt and water
earth tossed back to earth

without a bang or whimper
only tears cleaving the sky

and the rain slip
sliding down our shoulders,

skeletons who never got to say goodbye
left unburied and behind.

This is when the world begins—
not with a supernova, not with a star

but with a smile
stretched and stitched

down the table, forks clinking
above a sketchbook story

that strung us back together
puzzle pieces pilfered from the past,

photographs of the future and
laughter full of love and loss.

 

 

Sarena Tien is a queer Chinese-American feminist and Francophile. Her work has appeared in online publications such as Transitions Abroad, The Feminist Wire, Bustle, On She Goes, and Argot. When she’s not trying to become a polyglot, she can often be found fighting for social justice or folding far too many origami stars.

 

“Eight Days in Mercy” by Cynthia Morgan Nichols


“Favela” by Jean Banas, acrylic on canvas.

The strip-search nurse counts
my bruises, asks how I got them—
elbow, knee, hip—
I don’t know
I tell her, hands covering my breasts,
legs backsliding as she guides me
to the holding place
where others slump, oxy-blue
in skid-resistant socks; while
a world flutters mercurial, we are
brought back to order,
forced to stay
with dread-locked cravings
pacing a black tar fog
down hallways,
spilling wide-arched
into each other as feeling starts
to come back.

On the East ward I carry myself
with Prozac poise: ask for lip balm, participate
in group (they tell me
my Birkenstocks are smart shoes
for this place). My roommate surrenders
on her knees every morning, every night
against a hard board bed. I love
this place, I think, stripped and walking
patterned paces doubling back
suddenly popular
despite no phone calls, no visitors
saying my name.

Nights we count off
to the guard; a fast file out
into a frozen yard cut
by 12-foot razor wire; humming,
drumming, looping, we circle
newcomers; standing in twos and threes,
we assume vacant spaces; beneath
a void moon, we light
our cigarettes, one off the other, brightening
then dimming; a brief
constellation.

 

 

Cynthia Morgan Nichols lives in midtown Memphis and works at the University of Memphis Libraries. She enjoys painting, yoga and walking through her historic neighborhood.

 

“In Which Sasquatch Moves to the Desert” by Rachel Maggio


“The Overseer” by Jean Banas, Acrylic on canvas, 38″ x 47″.

i. they say the Sasquatch has never been killed
because the face is too human
that hunters looking into the eyes become struck with the fact
that they too are monster;
that Sasquatch have an affinity for chewing tobacco and bottled water
sneaking it from the packs of hikers, careful
so as not to wake the children

ii. the sightings of donovan are rare
perhaps on thanksgiving or christmas
but when he is present the room is alight
the air hangs in earthquake weather
this time the medication is working
this time dono drives a bus
this time he drives us all in the bus to see the christmas lights
this time i bury my head in my mother’s shoulder the whole time
too afraid to look up
this time the air is alive and elektrik

iii. Sasquatch speak their own language
a cohesive language they all understand of grunts and moans
and guttural calls, even the young ones
(they live in close family groups)
speak this language, based on the cries of the young
so the species adapts to speak to babies,
understood from birth that the innocence we all carry
may in fact be our saving grace
not the other way around and the Sasquatch
presumably have their own bedtime stories told in these grunts and moans
and the young presumably grunt and moan
for them to be told again

iv.they move to the desert
my grandma tells me the desert, has more extreme highs
and lows and maybe the sunshine and nature is what
the two of them need
and we go to the desert to see them
past the plaster dinosaurs and donovan rocks a new baby in his arms
to sleep before he disappears

v. the great Sasquatch of the pacific northwest
can communicate with the conscience
and maybe that is why it has never been killed
the great Sasquatch of the pacific northwest often attempt to bring home
the hikers kind enough to bring them chewing tobacco and bottled water
not realizing this is not appreciated
seeing into the greater conscience(but never to the surface)beyond the fear and thinking
instead about the need to escape to nature, but these hikers
cannot see into the greater Sasquatch conscience only to the surface of their own, and therefore
are limited to their fear

vi. when they find donovan’s body
hanging in the garage
my brother deciphers the news through my sobs
and asks me if i remembered to take my medication
wondering if i too will run away into the woods 

vii. offering Sasquatch food ensures your survival
while crying seems to aggravate the creatures
who will punch in your jaw and run at the sight of tears
but apparently no one has told this news to my grandmother
and aunt because there is no food at the funeral but there is
plenty of tears and
in the true Sasquatch spirit,
punching to follow suit

viii. donovan rode his skateboard down pch
to watch monsterquest with me and my brother
and his guttural laugh at the skeptics shown
makes us only more sure of ourselves
Sasquatch live among us
he leaves before the episode is over
and before Sasquatch are found

ix. the Sasquatch’s humanoid face
may in fact be proof that they are real
our cousins in fact
early wanderers who once
fed up with this world’s treatment
fled into the woods,
and spoke a new language of guttural groans
and chewing tobacco
and never came back

 

Rachel Maggio is a freelance writer and student in the English program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.