Read the featured writer of the week, ASHLEY NAFTULE, in the featured room, DRIVEWAY, here, and then visit the ARCHIVE below to read all the Pink Plastic Poets collected.
The Mer-Fairy / Gail Bello
With a white pearl encrusted tail the sheen of sea salt,
And resplendent silver wings agleam with opaline flecks.
To see her is a perplexing marvel.
She is as beauteous as she is confounding.
For the contradictions in her mind must be cumbersome.
Her bottom belonging to the saline drink,
Her backbone telling her she must fly,
While also hoping her gills provide wind resistance,
And that her chitin is as strong as her scales.
Perhaps one day she will be free of all her netting.
No trawlers grinding her down into the sand,
No lepidopterists snatching her out of the air.
And perhaps she will make it to Neptune
Where the zephyr and ichorous meet
And she’ll find worth in the symphony of all her parts.
Gail Bello is from Waltham Massachusetts. She is a recent BFA grad who writes poetry and plays and is looking forward to whatever comes next with a positive and hopeful heart. Find her previous publications at https://thaumaturgedramaturge.wordpress.com. She is thrilled and honored to be published in Pink Plastic House. Follow her on Twitter @AquajadeGail
Mother of Sighs / Jennifer MacBain-Stephens
After the 1977 film Suspiria
You must abandon your false mother
and take me inside of you
Susie feels something was
always ___ and missing
Cut the meat out of A and J
letters with a lipstick heart drawn
on a silver wire hanger
The animal comes from the cellar
Susie. It spits, bucks, and ____
the costumes look like blood
criss cross over an American body
the feeling presses her belly
Susie is Little Red with one eye
a walk through a private woods
upgrade to VIP and you meet the wolf
Susie, look with your one good eye
your mother is murdered
Run to her kin
cloaked in the Sabbath and ___
this spell, this rain soaked cape
Susie your blond head is cracked and
____ Submit to wet it’s not masculine
or feminine but animal
Meanwhile back at the dance school
one girl carries her body parts in a satchel
one girl crashes through a therapist’s window
the therapist is in drag but no one cares
one girl wears white keds
one girl says sleep with me
one girl climbs the wall
the instructors all talk inside their heads
measure body part of policemen
another bomb goes off underground
one girl carries her ballet shoes all the way to Berlin
it’s metal arms and watches strangle her in a closed off studio
A web of girls move and cannot control their jerks and shakes
lithe orange leaves that bend and crack under the weight
of an Eastern breeze
A gaggle of girls cannot burn down the academy
if you are wounded people in pain will find you
the news anchor reports he nods to osmosis
but it’s hidden under black light and code
Susie turns into a summer leaf and looks through
the woods with her one good eye
her knuckles bleed from exposed roots and rocks
Susie didn’t think her limbs could bend that way
she tries not to vomit
Susie says __ to the wall
I need to know you intimately before we can
Susie is Little Red on a good day
black death on a bad one
_____ and still
Jennifer MacBain-Stephens lives in Midwest and is the author of four full length poetry collections: “Your Best Asset is a White Lace Dress,” (Yellow Chair Press, 2016) “The Messenger is Already Dead,” (Stalking Horse Press, 2017,) “We’re Going to Need a Higher Fence,” tied for first place in the 2017 Lit Fest Book Competition, and “The Vitamix and the Murder of Crows,” is recently out from Apocalypse Party. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. She is also the author of ten chapbooks. Recent work can be seen at or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Black Lawrence Press, Quiddity, Prelude, Cleaver, Yalobusha Review, Zone 3, and decomp. Visit:http://jennifermacbainstephens.wordpress.com/
Welcome Mat / Madison McSweeney
People like me shouldn’t meet the neighbours
Loud talkers, heavy metal listeners and late-night walkers
I see you in the elevators
Nice to put a face to the ones I awaken
Bad news comes in sheets of paper
Ominous omens in eight-and-a-half by eleven
Blunt notices of eviction, subtle hints of termites
Leave me alone, I don’t have pests
is something someone with bugs would insist
Come in, I guess
The cockroach is chilling with a beer on the couch
watching some housewife show.
Make yourself home,
Sarah Lilius is the author of four chapbooks, including GIRL (dancing girl press, 2017), and Thirsty Bones (Blood Pudding Press, 2017). Her work can be found in Luna Luna Magazine, Pithead Chapel, and Fourteen Hills. She lives in Arlington, VA with her husband and two sons. Her website is sarahlilius.com.
Beneath The Waters of Liars /Amantine Brodeur
Were Avatars freshmen, growing webbed feet for lungs;
in each imprint, a memory, one cell-thick, gasping
succulent eager admiration. Dismissively articulated,
Alveoli. In the anatomy of disorder, blood coagulates
the gas-blood barrier depleting coefficients; microns
of Truth bled from their arid skin.
Were Persian earthquakes, ancient foreplay; fissures
deeper than knee-deep in azure rock and russet gravel;
of hot desert winds dressing women’s skin in burnt sand
Were their white eternal flames unfamiliar to God and
Poverty, beyond the unsafe addiction of bodies caught
And auctioned by the mouth.
Were predilections the swallowing gasp of dark teen
nails and Goth lipstick, her nubile body to be strode
aside, or over and pegged, like hunted Game, who
could blame this constancy of profanity, entitled as
predation is, to lure and leave a carcass; the ghost of
Her, stolen, many lives later.
Amantine Brodeur is a reclusive literary alchemist and explorer of the mundane and ordinary, revealed in the universes hidden within words. A lover of satire and the absurd, she embraces the surrealist irony of contemporary life in blank verse. She describes herself as an occasional transcendental romanticist.
chemsex for a higher purpose™ / Elizabeth Aldrich
Oblivion has been off-limits for a very long time.
I want veins full of black tar heroin, the kind I used to buy from that guy off Saticoy,
the kind he kept in his sock and only gave me once we were in his gated community. Private property. Beige metal gates.
I want to be on top of soft lavender sheets or a raw mattress,
and I want to be fucked, and fucked, and fucked.
I want veins full of heroin*
warm rhythmic cosmic agony
I want to not know who is inside of you–
someone else can be the anonymous whore.
I want every person filling me come to know the name my parents gave me.
too much x too much
eyes wandering the ceiling
I want to not know where I am, who I am, or why I am.
just touch me
*or a body filled with cocaine, ketamine, etizolam, Valium,
Percocet, Johnny Walker Black Label, Absolut Apeach
i am the naked wolfbitch/ narco-nymphette. girls like me melt into alumina. girls like me learn to lie. girls like me are knee-weak beneath my teeth. gleaming cumshot-white underneath a trembling spotlight a war like a dance / cathedrals painted black
the grocery list of nightmares, twofold. the eyelid of a day badly lived, night of countless tits and a single bloody mouth. snare my alienated attention, why? with all these immanent earthquakes that rivet my frame and cause my muscles to contract, the stress of having to warp your own gravity, score your own points. the wrenching tedium of landing one foot in front of the other when logic itself is a drawn-out mystery, another joke you’ve only overheard, eavesdropping on telegraphing dreams.
i used to get my metaphysical jollies rubbing up against some architectonic System, but only now i do realize nothing takes the edge of the problem of existing–because that problem has a name, and that name is me, and you can’t take that edge off because baby i’m all edge.
(the monster’s snuggled in the covers, i’m hiding under the bed, all is right with the world.)
there really is no end in sight. it’s true that with death just come new eyes. see same forever. eternity needs a transplant: it’s my body but it’s my call. it’s the same as always. wish my voice out; for something to rise and say, tired, complete! uttered yet fantastic but no we’re slated in the third grade
A Simple Thing / Juliette van der Molen
our hands talk without
needing words, nudging
and reaching, silently tapping
there are sounds as we work
side by side, the crackle snapping
as logs settle in the stone fireplace,
the steady breathing as i find a rhythm
to match the heartbeat slowed
from too much time in the village.
grandmother smooths open handwritten
lists, shaky scrawls thrown out in loop
lines, casting a net for cures, most
desperate and trapped in pain.
most of the secrets of the forest are
not meant to be secrets at all, they
are there for the willing and for those
who wish to see. but somehow beyond
the trees, underneath the bright cloudless
skies, people become blind.
my pestle grinds,
heavy in my hand,
i let it do the work,
turning dried leaves to powder,
crushing hard berry pebbles
to make them more suitable
for human consumption.
they say grandmother is magic,
but she says the world is magic,
i believe her. no secret incantations,
fanciful imaginings of villagers—
a simple thing
to commune with nature,
to let it speak
and let it be.
we fill and tie muslin, funnel tinctures into
glass of cobalt, emerald and amber.
once they are corked, nestled deep in
woven straw, grandmother speaks.
go with care,
she says as she ties my
red cloak closed, for i
am forever her child—
outside of the forest, beware.
Forties Girl / Andrea Quinlan
An old song plays
Is You Is, or Is You Ain’t
It asks a question plainly enough
Whether by accident or design
Those words were written during a war
They are not yours or mine to use
But still, they linger in the air
They sound from a crackling gramophone record
But really it is an iPod
These factors are distractions when the real question is
Contained in that song, after all
I wonder what’s the point of playing it?
When there is the spectre of another in the room
Who is flesh and blood
Whilst I am a ghost
But a ghost dampens my spirits
Like the river water dampened her skirts as she floated
I will not sink into the depths
I would rather the romance of the song
The kind of spirit I could feel at home with
I would rather throw off those skirts and dance
So the answer to that question is that
No, you are welcome to that solid form
I will slip away underneath the doors
You may hold onto that form
If it turns out that question is mine alone
Run away with me / Kendall A. Bell
In the daydream, your lips tasted
like fresh strawberries, and we rode
bicycles down city streets. Your long,
dark hair soaked in the spring’s warm
sun. At midnight, we found each other
again, under teardrop shaped streetlights.
We packed our bags with things like body
butter and Skittles, saved just enough
room for toothbrushes and our favorite
shirts. This time, your kisses tasted
like sea salt and ocean swells. We drive,
blasting our favorite songs as a soundtrack
to a new life. You promise a world turned
to gold. We never sleep. We never try.
Kendall A. Bell’s poetry has been most recently published in Dark Marrow and Crepe & Penn. He was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net collection in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018. He is the author of two full length collections, “The Roads Don’t Love You” (2018) and “the forced hush of quiet” (2019), and 26 chapbooks. His next chapbook will be released in June 2020. He is the publisher/editor of Maverick Duck Press and editor and founder of Chantarelle’s Notebook. His chapbooks are available through Maverick Duck Press. He lives in Southern New Jersey.
What I’m Going to Do, Sarah Connor / Juleigh Howard Hobson
I’m going to pretend you’re my mother, I
Know you don’t really exist, that you are
Just an actor, that the role is just your
Job. But I’m going to pretend. It’s why
I won’t kill myself with crashing the car
Headlong into the freeway divider
By grabbing the steering wheel when she takes
Me to school. I’ll pretend she’s my foster
Mom, who brings me places, makes me do chores.
I’ll pretend I have to stay with her, make
The best of it while you are away for
Hollywood, that you love me, that I’m yours,
That when you’re back everything will be fixed
Perfect. Meanwhile, I have you on Netflix.
Encircling / Sheena Carroll
Follow her crop lines:
She moved to Minnesota
because her cousin offered her a free cabin.
Now she can say she’s a full-time artist
without capitalism in the way.
But something is wrong in the field
behind her home—
yes, right behind her,
purple yellow blue yellow
lights at night
and in the morning,
another mutilated deer.
Not knowing what else to do,
she makes art about it.
Eternal inspiration in the unexplained
but not really, because one
can only go so far before revealing everything,
and the mystery must be maintained
for the piece to contain any lasting value.
The Venus Flytrap / Lisa Lermer Weber
The Venus Flytrap snaps shut
as soon as she senses the tentative touch
of her would-be lover—
Her hunger knows no remorse.
Her desire begs no forgiveness.
And why should she regret
acting upon her basic instinct
when her suitors—her predators—
act upon theirs.
After all, they are just inhabitants
in the garden of good and evil—
some reaching for the sun,
others snaking their way
through the dark and tangled undergrowth.
The Venus Flytrap snaps shut,
ending a dangerous liaison
and showing the world
that beauty does not equal weakness,
and an opening is not always an invitation.
VICTOR / DANIEL CASEY
When I think of your body
I don’t want to think of only
long socked legs, cheeks, and wide eyes.
But I do, because I don’t
think you mind my idiocy.
I read your words and construe
desires only someone far
away could assume. Leering,
imaginary, it creeps
out of my mind through dreams at dawn
unawake, unasleep some
monster plotting to stitch sheathed
thighs to twisted haunches
hewn from marbled stone supple
in its emergent need to
be free. I would find Venus’
arms, devise, suggest a way
for their elegant gestures.
Perhaps long, satin gloves full
of fresh breath from your new chest.
At your neck, where you already
pull from your heart babied air
speaking your verse in cadences
of rhyme I cannot mimic or find,
I listen. Waiting for your lips to part
so to speak a name into your mouth,
taken from tongue placed on tongue
to be said or unsaid, spat out, or
forgotten. You have always been
before I was, before I made this
image, collage, fantasy made me
this monstrosity. I apologize for
I am nothing to you now or ever.
dear margaret / jameson hampton
tiny, frightened minds say,
there’s a sort of evil out there, something very strange in these old woods
and they can’t discern between all the things
they don’t understand
their fear makes sense to us
because there is fear represented among us
but we didn’t understand loneliness
until we experienced it through
she put words around the cold rushing wind and the whistle of the rustling trees
she was as lonely as we were
and she listened to the parts of silence that other people filled up with their fear
our fear is drawn back, always, to the source of all fear
through the douglas firs and the sycamore trees
there is a place,
a place like us:
a single piece, a single whole
an unpleasant place—even for us—
where the cold wind always rushes;
an impossible place for tiny, frightened minds
Prince in a Tin Foil Crown / Amy Suzanne
Forest girls are found by men
Who come in there to rescue them
Flimsy paper walls
I feel a wild thing bedroom coming on
Malachite trees push up the roof
And I am looking for you
My prince in a tin foil crown
If books tell the truth
I conjured you
And if you climb back in that boat
I’ll eat you up, I’ll love you so
And when you say you don’t remember
I’ll wonder if I needed to be more fierce
Or less ugly, princess toes instead of duck feet
I’ll realize I’m stuck as me
The men who come or leave
Can’t change a thing
Mark Anthony Smith was born in Hull. His writing has appeared in Spelk Fiction and Truly U. Other stories and poems are forthcoming in The Cabinet of Heed and Detritus.
THE SEVEN SISTERS / CAITLIN REYNOLDS
It was cold while we stood in your backyard
Looking upwards to the night sky for clarity
For a quiet moment you had your arm around me, my head tucked under your chin
I pointed to a small, twinkling constellation and you said that it was the Seven Sisters
Later I researched it and learned it was formed 100 million years ago
it’s thought that early skywatchers could see more stars in the sky than we do today
Their skies weren’t obstructed by pollution, their eyes not tricked by satellites
The sky didn’t have poison in it yet
and I thought about what it would have been like, to see the sky like that
and then I thought about our hearts as the sky
What would it be like to have a heart not yet corrupted by poison, by disappointments and deceptions
That clarity just came with the territory
The Seven Sisters is 400 light years away
and I thought about how I have felt so far away
People I have loved
People I have trusted
how I couldn’t see any stars because my own sky had become so blurred
Blurred black and blotted out
and I get the feeling you’ve had to look at a sky similar to mine
and I think about how living with the pollution just became second nature
That maybe I didn’t want to see any of those stars
Maybe if I did it would devastate me too much
But I guess when you kissed me I didn’t feel like I was 400 light years away
I could feel my feet on the ground
and we shared a cigarette
I looked back up at the sky and you looked at me
Monster / Brigid Hannon
He doesn’t hear me,
or He doesn’t listen.
I’ve yet to determine which, but-
perhaps my line to heaven is down,
perhaps all these rainstorms have washed it away.
My head has monsters that whisper,
scold me still.
Put on your best dress,
comb out your snarled hair,
Go to this china doll tea party,
with girls playing dress up like their mommies,
cups of tea replaced
by glasses of wine.
I must prove platonic-
superficial schoolgirl that I am.
But I don’t want to play anymore, you see.
I don’t care how young I sound because
this is how old I am.
Still not old enough to know better,
as I only just got used to drinking;
and I still don’t know how to drive.
Twiterpatted and crushy-crushed.
Stupid me is still hoping for stupid you.
God knows I try to forget.
He either doesn’t hear me,
or He doesn’t care.
I gobble these pills in wee fistfuls,
think about how I don’t think about you-
at least not anymore.
This book is for my curses,
the fluid words that jog my memory
while waiting for sleep, or-
waiting for the little pink pill
to work its magic.
You’re a virus I’ve learned to live with,
eating away at my good cells,
tearing apart my tissue.
You are a nightmare I cannot wake up from.
It’s raining down on my life like fire,
I wish I was stoned,
to take this edge off.
Drunk to drink it all away.
For days I have been flying,
high as a kite in the sky.
For days I have been playing
if I were honest,
I’d be lying.
I never did it all that well.
I have these bruises-
Though not really.
They call them love bites,
but I have never been loved by one who’s bitten.
These are battle scars to me.
The mailman comes,
sends me into a frenzy,
a writer’s wet dream,
but the thoughts don’t reach the fingertips.
Can’t hit the right keys,
drop the pen to the paper,
make me choke on these bitter consonants.
Better than another try at another trial,
I play these words like notes on a piano,
But I can’t control the scales anymore.
You are burned on these bleeding retinas.
You are inside everything that I do.
Why would God let my life go by?
In an instant, over this?
He doesn’t hear me,
or He isn’t listening.
Brigid Hannon is a writer from Buffalo, NY. Her poetry has been
featured at Ghost City Press Review, Right Hand Pointing, Constellate
Magazine, Night Music Journal, and Madwomen in the Attic. Her short
fiction has been featured at Soft Cartel and Edify Fiction. She can
be found online at hamneggs716.wordpress.com and on Twitter
Light Through the Trees / Anthony Lawrence
The trees are outsourcing
their resident populations
of nocturnal watchers
& killers: powerful
& boobook owls, tawny
& a bird that cries
more than it sings.
This had been the domain
of the cutter shrike
& tarantula hawk
but exotics like the labial
swamp flower & its dark
affiliates the mountain sash
stagger vine, strangler fig
& star wheel have now
by leaving symbol-riddled
impressions of the moon’s
phases in strips & wafers
of red bark. Each day
around one or two degrees
before dark on the ringed
face of a cut stump, light
comes through the trees
& falls into the hand-blown
green chamber of a bottle.
Of all the creatures
who pause before the light
as it flickers & goes out
it is the undertaker snake
that learns how to regulate
its heart rate, & so make
imperceptible it’s approach.
The scene ends with a little
The signal is weak here / Pavlina Marie Wilkin
There’s WiFi in the garden
so here I am. The lawn
is shaped by my tendencies
inconstant and indifferent
weeds on a par with the flowers
Writing this in drafts I
forgotten your name
It hasn’t come to me yet
it will. What’s new with you?
I’m much the same. I am
teaching ‘the boy’
there are shades of cold
many ways to describe it
Synonyms will save us
We are not ‘ freezing’
all the time. ‘I feel / it is
chilly/ fresh’. Discernment
of difference lets the joins
show. Your name is unlike
any other name
Questions like this are demands
not that they ‘hurt’. They
smart, irritate and annoy
I feel this keenly, a
suggestion of hurt. Your name
comes to mind
Craving / December Lace
I am pink tank tops and animal cartoons
The Need clawing out of me,
sheets too thin to hold
Pull out bed, no shelves for my dolls
a wet carpet ruined
from leaving the door open
I walk the hallways waiting
for you to lift me, pull apart the fabric,
take your hands and fold me
all over my face, the Need hovering-
static over my lips, wrapping you too
moon spell / linda crate
crisp, eerie night
full of mystery
bedazzled in crow song;
you struggling beneath
a burden of the truth—
there is no mirth
laughing in the sunset
only the cold fang of a coming
and you believe you’re safe;
this is a pretty lie—
beneath the garden is a creature
digging through the soil,
you have long since painted me
your truth nothing more than a masquerade—
the damphyr leaves the coffin behind,
breaking through your burial of me;
you insincere yet charming
will probably convince them that i am
as if i am the only one—
but you’re the one devouring damsels
until only darkness is left,
i am the spell of moonlight that will
shatter you until only void remains.
The Candle / Z. D. DICKS
The candle flame jumped in my bedroom
as netting was pushed aside by draught
carrying vanilla and coconut from open
pores when spider lace dropped but
its lines were carried a ghost print on skin
They danced as shadows on that thin feather
each curve gleaned by flick and caress
of light armoured in nakedness wearing
the night as negligée a woman was
undressed the closer her cat eyes glowed
At her back and slumped on the ceiling
she threw off her garter and french knickers
her corset ripped by one step and as she
leaned forward the spectres swirled
on corner posts but she was warmed
Not by suppressed flicker an open window
or a duvet flung to floor but by a man
a phantasm clothed in black
Z. D. Dicks has appeared in Ink, Sweat and Tears, Three Drops from a Cauldron, Fresh Air Poetry, As it Ought to Be, I am not a silent poet, The Hedgehog Poetry Press and described as ‘a gothic Seamus Heaney’ by Anna Saunders.
Plain White Van / Norb Aikin
You ask me to be descriptive
and cite examples like
you don’t have a window to look through
or a leg to stand on.
You’re driving faster just
before the disaster and I’m
eager to watch it unfold
before my mouth can form the words
“I told you so!”
You want me to be a description
and set an example like
you’re too good to manage on your own
with vices waiting to explode.
You’re just a clipper, clipped,
and ready to drive off the road
while we keep staring transfixed
at an outcome that is greater
than the cost of admission
to the show.
I’m decidedly okay being nondescript
like the examples my life should’ve been
before I knew you were watching
and waiting for me to decide
if I was gonna live or die.
With no thanks to you, I’ll
safely get in the machine
On REM’s Automatic for the People / Dean Rhetoric
I Swallow Heart / Effy Winter
Seinfeld / Justin Karcher
I’m scared of
the same thing you are:
Like all these hipster doofuses
uncomfortable at parties
knocking over bookshelves
when they’ve had too much to drink
at the top of their lungs
“These pretzels are making me
Like wandering through the desert for
and then the aliens come
so you invite them to coffee
and talk about
humanity’s biggest flaws—
breaking apart endangered lobsters
the bisque is to die for
Dingoes eating babies
jumping off buildings
Driverless garbage trucks
roaming the streets
looking for meaningless sex
The panting, the screaming
fake, fake, fake, fake
everyone wants you to fuck up
It’s okay though
I got a great idea for a cologne
sometimes it’s the only thing
getting me out of bed
in the morning
Justin Karcher (Twitter: @justin_karcher, Instagram: the.man.about.town) is a Best of the Net- and Pushcart-nominated poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, NY. He is the author of several books, including Tailgating at the Gates of Hell (Ghost City Press, 2015). He is also the editor of Ghost City Review and co-editor of the anthology My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry (BlazeVOX [books], 2017).
I Bet Dale Cooper Doesn’t Feel Body Dysphoria / Ennis Rook Bashe
I’d like to look so good in a suit
that distraught girls slither out of the decades and into my bed,
like to sit in my boxer shorts watching the cold sunrise over the pine trees.
walk into my room with a switchblade or bad news
but now the person in the mirror has too-long scraggly hair and fingernails
and my best interests not at heart.
I’d like to be unwrapped at last, walking out of the lake
with a log-thick body, deep and sturdy voice.
Ennis Rook Bashe is a game designer/poet/grad student located in Brooklyn. Find them on Twitter at @EnnisRookBashe, and check out their poetry chapbook about transgender identity, NOT GIRL BUT KNIFE: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Girl-But-Knife-poetic-ebook/dp/B07PJ1Q7X5/
One night I dreamed I carried the ocean /
in my pocket, and, any time I wanted,
I could pull it out like a shard of glass
to see a starfish
stretching to grasp the sand,
slowly meandering along,
or the flutter of kelp swirling
through curtains of currents.
I could backfloat through it all,
eyes up to the clouds, tracing their outlines
with my arms and lips in breath.
If I needed jewelry, I could reach down
find a shell with my fingers
place it over my eyes
or at the clutch
of my neck, or a sand dollar
over my heart;
its enamel glistening with water
and pearline desire. A fish
would swim by to look at me,
bedazzled by seashells.
Would it think I was another fish,
keeping the ocean as I did?
Maybe I would dive down,
the fish’s fin between my fingers
or maybe I’d twirl among the gulps of waves
mimicking their motions
as water slicked my limbs,
a holy sluice
where I felt the shapeliness of love
amidst the churning water,
graceful as the tide, salt spray
on my tongue.
And then it was dark again,
when the water and the sky
merged into ink black as squid,
and I folded the whole thing up,
put it back in my pocket,
like the gemstone forged from sea glass,
opaque and jagged,
resting in the jar on the windowsill.
Sarah A. Etlinger is an English professor who lives in Milwaukee, WI, with her family. She is the author of Never One for Promises (Kelsay Books, 2018) along with many poems that appear in places such as The Magnolia Review, Brine (where she was the featured poet in September 2018), and many others including anthologies. Hobbies include traveling, cooking, and learning to play the piano.
area code 604 / Michael Chang
. . .
. . .
“I will comb it with my own claws,” said the dragon, “for I see that the child has hair the colour of gold, which is the only right colour for hair.”—Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison
Ed. Note #1: that dragon is racist as hell
Ed. Note #2: this poem could really be about anything you want
Ed. Note #3: how do you feel about a time-travelling consort finding love in a hopeless place
. . .
. . .
A whiteboy asks me to interpret his dreams
Why do I dream about my teeth falling out
I say it means you want me very badly
Another whiteboy heartbreaker asks what I do
I tell him I invented whiskey sours
I’m a sommelier for root vegetables
I run a book club for fans of One Direction
The screenwriter William Goldman said about Hollywood: “Nobody knows nothing”
He meant that even after a hundred-plus years of filmmaking
No one actually knows how to make a successful movie
Sure-things bomb & longshots win big
When it comes to us // nobody knows nothing
. . .
. . .
White people know all about the Stanford Prison Experiment
(Innocent) (An aberration) (For science)
But nothing about the Tuskegee Study
Or Wounded Knee
Or Chinese Exclusion
Or Japanese Internment
(Forget them) (They are yellow)
Karr was right to say:plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose
(The more things change, the more they stay the same)
. . .
. . .
White people who say they are “comfortable” really mean that they are richer than God
I find in your cabinet of bizarre curios
a delicate vial of four green leaves
Luminous, scalding, teasing, sentient, temperamental
Your lips ring with strange rain
Your tastebuds dance as I put myself on your tongue
My synapses sing like a suspect facing 20-to-life
You make me crumble // with your devastating gaze
Your dominant assertiveness meets my gentle yielding
Our labor of love
. . .
. . .
You make me giddy like I’m on horse tranquilizers
mess & quake // sting & salve
feeling my way through a dark theater
There is a house in Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka
designed by Tadao Ando
with no exterior windows
because the owner wanted to feel
“not in Japan”
to compensate for lost light
an interior courtyard was created
In Japan “free size” means one-size-fits-all
Do you like my navy dufflecoat
. . .
. . .
Ecclesiastes said there’s nothing new under the sun
but there is always new joy to be felt // new delight to be found
though it’s hard to get excited about tomatoes
I memorized the riddles but not the answers // the tunes but not the words
You plant a flag // it’s one of passion, rigor, ambition, collisions, kinship
Today, Madame President, we’re all Adam and Eve and Steve
. . .
. . .
Whiteboy daddy longlegs
turn your face toward me
The face that could take a thousand lives
& murder me a million times
You on top & me feeling weightless
Pimp my affections for
your flawed shine
your intelligent design
your pizza-burn sensitivity
your dirt road and no map
your conscious uncoupling
your fecund loins and imagination
your tongue darting around my danger zone
your practiced mouth intimacy
& your massive quiet glory
You watch me swallow, eyes wide open
With a serious expression, you say with absolute sincerity,
Uber but for trust exercises
. . .
. . .
MICHAEL CHANG (they/them) hopes to win the New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant one day. Michael strongly suspects that they were born in the wrong decade. A recovering vegan, their favorite ice cream flavor was almost renamed due to scandal.
Their writing has been published or is forthcoming in Q/A Poetry, Yes Poetry, Typo Mag, Wrath-Bearing Tree, Bending Genres, Heavy Feather Review, Cabildo Quarterly, Neon Garden, Yellow Medicine Review, The Conglomerate, Kissing Dynamite, Little Rose, Milk + Beans, and elsewhere. They are the proud recipient of a Brooklyn Poets fellowship.
They poet to feel alive.
The Antique Dollhouse / Lucy Whitehead
How many small hands
have opened up
the front of this house,
with its latticed tin shutters,
its smudged glass,
breaking apart its neat
with a creak, peering
into rooms, rearranging
the lives within?
Today we’ve made
a feast of Fimo
for the people who
have no doors.
With hardboard walls
between them, how
can they escape
their tiny housebound
lives? To reach each other,
do they have to shout?
Or have they stopped
after all this time?
When no one is looking,
do they bang their heads
Lucy Whitehead writes haiku and poetry. Her haiku have appeared in various international journals and anthologies and her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Amethyst Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Barren Magazine, Black Bough Poetry, Burning House Press, Collective Unrest, Electric Moon Magazine, Ghost City Review, Mookychick Magazine, Neon Mariposa Magazine, Pussy Magic, Re-side, and Twist in Time Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @blueirispoetry.
January 14th, 2020
A Wild Woman Shows Up in Many Guises /
Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins
don’t punish me for broken glass,
a child breaks many things and you have surely
had your heart broken, and survived/
a shard doesn’t glimmer,
it punctures tires and turns to smaller fragments of itself,
just remnants of what it was and yet,
no morsel in my mouth,
you kiss me and forgive
the shrapnel i’ve dislodged
Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins is an immigrant from El Salvador. Her work has been featured in Thimble Literary Magazine, Rabid Oak, Punch Drunk Press, Mojave He[art] Review, FIVE:2:ONE amid others.
She hosts a monthly poetry reading series, “They’re Just Words” featuring poets from all over L.A. County and beyond.
She is also the author of six volumes of poetry, ‘Things Outside,’ ‘Wayward,’ ‘Zenith,’ ‘Ablution,’ ‘el destino de Abril,’ & ‘Falling in Love in Los Angeles.’
Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins lives in Historic Filipinotown, CA with her husband, painter John Collins.
For rants follow her blog at http://notesofadirtyyoungwoman.com
January 8th, 2020
Keychains as Treats / Juliet Cook
I didn’t know what they were made out of.
I thought they were furry toys named after rabbits.
Not real cut off rabbit feet.
Our grandparents gave us rabbit feet as treats.
Our grandparents ate slimy pig feet.
I imagined them eating human feet
that tried to escape from the pen
in which they were planted.
Every leg gets cross-stitched into position
in this factory. You are told to sit still
at the table you’ve been assigned
and either eat what’s right in front of you or be eaten
after your own feet are cut off and hooked to a chain.
Tiny appendages try
to posture their way out of grandma’s eggs,
but get mercilessly flung into soup pans
surrounded by chicken wire.
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.
January 1st, 2020
Prunus domestica / J. Summerisle Wilson
plumlike eyes press shapes from blood
& stones make stars of light.
soiled fingers cut the skin in curves
& nails bite through flesh. cute girls
clean their cuticles & dirty
their hair, their lips, their face.
too much like the dead for dolls,
she dresses fruit up in
little leaves & thorns
are born & rest in shoe box beds.
teazles tower above the flowers
in polyester gowns.
the devil is a prince in here,
among the moss & wood. bottle
caps & idle hands are up to
the devil dotes
on little girls who bruise
up like a peach. & little
girls may build up worlds
& call a curse on each.
Summerisle Wilson currently lives in the East Midlands of England & has appeared in various online journals. Her work has been nominated in 2019 for Best of the Net, and a full list of publications can be found at jenniferwilsonlit.wordpress.com. She may also be found on Twitter @_dead_swans
December 25th, 2019
Conversation Ending with a Ghost / KB
After Natalie Diaz
Matthew? Never heard of him. I know a guy named Matt though
I say as if I’m a stranger to his touch. Under the thick of my
covers, I hold his freckled shoulders in my hands; how broad
they look in the silhouette of our love bubble. To wake, he cups
my waist with his tan calloused hands then prickles
my cheek with those frizzy, chapped lips. There’s nothing more tender
than holding a neck stained with night-before sweat I feel
most feminine when imprints of my chipped nails
line his back to its margins. Yes, I know a guy with that hazel face;
the memory so celestial, I almost forget it’s a ghost.
December 18th, 2019
She Goes to The Attic and Considers Dying / Robin Sinclair
She coughed iron and rolled to her side,
her neck heavy like ego,
She smelled the dew and recalled a vague idea of herself
struggling against swollen wood and glass before
falling half onto the bed, the window still open and the floor wet from rain.
It was dull to her now, the tilt of the room, the nausea,
the confusion of morning. She’d stopped fighting to remember –
cringing at Last Night never made it happen any less.
The new sins were becoming harder to regret,
and the first taste of a new pleasure was already stale
like the emergency cigarette she’d hidden behind sheet music,
Gilbert and Sullivan her grandmother played on Sundays,
before rum shakes and the Mourning After.
The ceiling circled above her as
she remembered the wrinkled fingers hammering into Penzance
snickered at herself for never considering
what life they’d lived –
nicotine stains, the weight of a sobbing face, tugging at flesh.
She sat at the end of her bed and watched
her own fingers tremble, imagined
the moisture in the air filling her lungs, holy water
blessed by deciduous saints. She folded her hands in mock prayer,
steadied them. Exhaled the heat.
She creaked forward like a rocking chair until standing,
noticed the candle still burning on her bookshelf,
the water in the creases between floorboards, cold on
her toes and heels, realized
she’d forgotten what old books smell like.
She lurched along the walls and passed the piano, her
spine like the wooden steps leading her to the attic.
There was a place where the light ended, dank and dusted with unread history.
She dragged her fingers along the knotted boards above,
reading palms until she found her mother’s vanity.
She lit the candles on each side.
She lit the cigarette she’d been waiting for.
She inhaled and recalled an ill deed
before the ill body – she exhaled heat once more.
In the mirror, she scowled at the cracks in her skin.
She thought of the web in the wall from
a lover’s fist,
the map in the pavement under a man she watched
die. She wiped the makeup from the lines beside her eyelids,
erasing tiny black rivers like a bored deity.
She considered returning to her bookshelf, flipping pages
as she breathed in deep.
She considered dying.
December 11th, 2019
iPhone Notes From a 3AM Insomniac / Kayla King
I. 3:18 AM
Yes, this is forgetting. I stretch in the center of the bed. No longer do I revolve around you,
chasing your shadow beneath sheets. Now I am my own universe.
I creep into the cold, the place where there are no feet, no person to warm the other side
of the bed; I know I am here. I did not
II. 3:59 AM
Remember you said nothing gold could make me stay; I wasn’t willing to disagree.
You moved the world for none but me. And Mother warned me,
III. 3:32 AM
Have you ever wondered why women walk in darkness with car keys
daggered between finger webs? You’ve never held anything but my hand that way.
Interlocked fingers could not steal the world by its spine, because it had
IV. 3:13 AM
Rusting up ruined; blood flakes when dry. So small, I think, perhaps, I picked a scab in sleep. Flashlight app is useless beneath sheets, but will I find little legs
in light break? Spider dead. Sheets torn from mattress. And it’s a problem.
But it’s not your problem
V. 3:47 AM
I’m sure I said something terrible from this place of unsleeping. Tiredness grates
and gropes and grips me to this artificial light like a savior. You were not supposed to save me,
I remind my eight year old self from the photo on the wall. This isn’t the way
Kayla King is a graduate of the Mountainview MFA. She is the author of These Are the Women We Write About, a micro-collection of poetry published by The Poetry Annals. Kayla’s fiction and poetry has been published by or is forthcoming from Plath Poetry Project, Dear Damsels, Figroot Press, Ink In Thirds Magazine, Firewords Magazine, Sobotka Literary Magazine, Fearsome Critters, Barren Magazine, Dear Movies Zine, and Twelve Winters Press, among others. You can follow Kayla’s writing journey over at her website: kaylakingbooks.com or her twitterings @KaylaMKing.
December 4th, 2019
porous / j. dahl
I am re-calibrating
as I have
is there anything more insane
than staying the same
when everything is slightly changed
wear your shoes out fast
thin soles dropping
acid in google glass
guide me home
cranking brake-less on icy
asphalt you’re in my head
climbing stairs over sweaty
boys looking for a quiet landing
miming a smoke
on future devices
we enjoy the speculation
sprawled on a baroque sofa in a tunnel
among the houseplants
milling around nocturnal
walking in the sleet
orange juice no list
no threat no stress
bring your eyes
rung double swept
library roof scraped knees
atop my composite
hold your face
up to the falling
she’s drawing on the walls
not saying a word
November 27th, 2019
DEMISE OF A PIPPI LANGSTRUMPF DOLL / MARGARET ROYALL
Where once Pippi’s face from the toy box smiled down
Her blue eyes now squint through the dust-sheeted gloom
Lithe-limbed pale mannequins sprawl across the room
Suitcases brim-full with puppets and clowns
Sepia albums, ancestors long gone,
Chipped tea-set, music box, lost teddy bear
All now abandoned, nobody to care
For objects, which once oozed with family fun
Doll’s rocking chair where Pippi once sat
Listening to tales full of young dolly dreams,
Outfits now faded and pulled at the seams
Consigned to the porch for the family’s cat
Golf clubs and rackets once keen to compete
Doll’s pram and cot now in bits on the floor
Birdcage with stuffed owl obstructing the door
Art box with contents spilled over the seats
A whole life defined here, consigned to this space
Where now she’s abandoned, grown tired and thin
For without any warning, new children moved in….
Rejection now saddens the doll’s ageing face
Margaret’s fascination for landscape poetry, myth, legend and Celtic spirituality have been enhanced by annual writing retreats on the beautiful island of Iona, painting in Crete and periods of writing in her beloved France. Her work has featured in six anthologies by Hedgehog Poetry Press, plus entries in “Word”and “Pictures Launched a Thousand Words”. She was short-listed in 2018 for the Crowvus and the Bangor Poetry Prizes. She is a regular performer at open mic nights and leads poetry workshops in Nottinghamshire.
November 20th, 2019
Concrete Jungle / Mark McConville
You tell me to run
And not to look back
Tears are for cowards you say
But I weep endlessly anyway
Waterlogged eyes try to see through the smog
Of a City marred by murderous themes and broken luck.
I can’t think smoothly or speak softly
I scream and my lungs hurt and my ribcage nearly breaks
My skin is youthful but my insides are festering
On the cusp of dancing with death
I pull through, and try to forget about perforated organs.
I am saddened by her message of discontent
A mother like figure who once tended to grazes
I woman of magnitude, a wife and maid,
A grafter, a chancer, a frightened rabbit.
Today my life is in shreds, my future is irrelevant,
No one listens, my pleas are empty,
She told me to run and create wonders,
To send shivers down a perfect lovers back
To flutter my eyelashes when times are heavy and meagre.
I can’t lift my spirits,
I’m inhaling the smoke from countless cigarettes
In these houses of disillusionment
They forget there’s wars unfolding outside these paper-thin walls.
The nights are the worst,
The Black Death seems to cover my room
Sending signals that I’m next
I’m petrified and conveying this through works
Of writing, unpublishable but honest.
I can’t see a burning horizon or a utopia
A glittering wonderland or rapture,
My gaze is set on a underwhelming,
Tarnished, bloated, concrete jungle.
And you told me to run.
Mark McConville is a freelance music journalist. His work has appeared online and in print. He also loves to write cathartic fiction.
November 13th, 2019
Pillbox Sonata / A.S. Kresnak
The illness leaves blank spaces everywhere.
I can’t remember what has caused me pain,
or whether I’ve had my doses for the day.
I tie a bow around the bottle, to remind me.
one that will work.
I’ll take the pills by dose,
by day, and someday soon I will
Be well. It’s the kind of blessing we don’t say anymore,
but we imply it, checking up on each other at the signs of distress.
It was all I wanted when I asked to be prescribed the pills
I knew would work: the ones that make sure I’m not
crying angry about the big things, the little things, the things
I remember nothing about but that they hurt —
Progression isn’t linear. Our history is full of blank spaces
because we don’t take action to remember them. Older people talk
like modern life makes us weaker. On the contrary: we have the pills,
the vaccines, the means to keep alive those who would have died
in the older days. I am sick. I could have died; but I am here,
and I am well.
The illness leaves blank spaces everywhere.
I can’t remember what has caused me pain,
or whether I’ve had my doses for the day.
I tie a bow around the bottle, to remind me.
one that will work.
I’ll take the pills by dose,
by day, and someday soon I will
A.S. Kresnak is a mixed-race college student currently exploring their new state. They can be found on Twitter @askresnak.
November 6th, 2019
Is it better to speak or die trying / Lauren Saxon
— After Zahir McGhee
Yesterday — I built a house
Layed down each brick, driveway cement caking
my hands & fingernails & throat
Damn shame. I tell you
being a black woman
being the foundation & the walls
the garage & welcome mat
I built this house
carried in the couch & its ottoman
sanded down the dining room table
look how strong I am
I can carry a man.
raise a man
think like one too
is it better to build citadels or families
to protect his ego or your curls
the answer is Nobody.
and ain’t that a bitch?
to build a house yourself & watch them
steal the words your lips are mouthing
But we still try
even when we get nothing in return
even when our house
floods with the first rain
burns down with the first cigarette to the forearm
Yesterday I built a house
knowing damn well nobody wants to be my roof
is that admirable
Lauren Saxon is a 21 year old poet and mechanical engineer from Cincinnati Ohio. She attends Vanderbilt University, and relies on poetry when elections, church shootings, and police brutality leaves her speechless. Lauren’s work is featured or forthcoming in Flypaper Magazine, Rhythm & Bones Lit, and Nimrod International Journal. She is on poetry staff at Gigantic Sequins, and spends way too much time on twitter (@Lsax_235).
October 30th, 2019
Gorgon / JD DeHart
I quite mean it when I say
if it wasn’t you, my love, it would
be no one else.
I’ve met too many creatures
of raven hair in this land of giants
and antique stores.
They seem lovely and then
sink in their misunderstandings.
They smile, speaking a
language of the gods, muttering
incantations about social media.
Then they have serpents in their
hair. And I’m not judging, mind you.
A little asp never hurt anyone.
(That’s not strictly true, kids.)
It’s just that I’m afraid I might
become trapped in a maze, and this
is not the kind of story where I find
a sword or magic helmet. I mean, let’s
be realistic here. I can barely operate
my GPS properly.
JD DeHart is a writer and teacher. He blogs at literacyworkandplay.blogspot.com and his second poetry collection, A Five-Year Journey, was released in the fall.
October 23, 2019
What if Diane Arbus had been in this bedroom? / Pavlina Marie Wilkin
Middle of the frame
His gaze meets yours squarely
Tilted head, curious lips
Best cuts, the loin
Depth of field such that
Silver chest radiates
Lights up this darkroom
And a heart
Whisky is a ‘man’s drink’
The taste will linger later
Like the feel of a
5 o’clock shadow
Black and white
are my favourite films
a dream sequence
for sorting out the head
Meeting in the headlands
Joining in the midlands
Basking next to Turnmills
Walking in the foothills [Repeat]
An armature grid
Sets the subject free
To hell with the golden ratio/ rule of thirds
The rule book
It starts in a darkroom
bathed in olives
Skin is paper
sensitive to exposure
Salts are an activated
memory of sweat
A suspension of protein
needs to bind
Gelatin emulsion or albumen
Results are uncontrollable:
This image is solarized:
October 17, 2019
Peel / December Lace
Hallways built generations ago creep toward my veins
and newly ringed hands
as if to claim my blood more completely for their own.
The walls smeared in oil paintings
ache for a new shade to color their fixed frowns.
The straining energy, the inner mechanics of a mansion
your name bears title to, but no more than a ghost owns
a possessed body
after drapes are drawn and dark words are whispered
into a raining night sealed off by windows and
the cracks in the ceiling spreading accidental lightning,
looking like anatomy if they were to cut me open-
which they still might, if you say the words,
for I am now yours, and a delicate word will send me away.
October 9th, 2019
Plant your feet and be still
Become the grass on a windless night
and relish in your isolated universe
Hear my voice
as it gradually crawls along the spider’s path
rising, then falling
into the darkest hour
and observe the Beauty in a patient designer
Listen to the crickets’ unified symphony
and feel the ants’ dance upon your skin
How giant we must be to them
but still they climb
only to be flicked away
or swept up by a gust of our cold, foul breath
A bird’s wings are inconsequential
without the opposition of gravity
Similarly, true gratitude cannot exist without death
or knowledge of its imminence
So when the breeze washes over you with a gentle push
or sweeps you up into a violent spiral
remember to bend with it
and break, if you must
take what you can
but let the Autumn leaves die
They’re no longer meant for this life
and more will surely flourish
colorful, voluptuous, vibrant
just like You.
Stephanie Schubert is a Jewish/Uruguayan poet and multi-media artist born and raised in Anaheim, CA and currently based in Salt Lake City. Her mediums include painting, audio & visual production, event planning, poetry, zine-making, and jewelry-making. Her artwork and poetry have been displayed at Sonder Exhibit in New York City and Viva La Muxer in Los Angeles. Her handmade jewelry has been featured on Remezcla and VoyageLA Magazine. Her poetry can be found in the YANYR Anthology published by Rhythm & Bones Literary Magazine, her self published & curated zine Desamor: An Anthology of Heartbreak, Pink Plastic House: a tiny journal, and Sobotka Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming collaborative zine “Sub Rosa” (co-curated with Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins) is set to be released on November 1st, 2019.
October 2nd, 2019
Elder Orphans / Rachael Ikins
Dawn again, gray, watered-down dawn,
December. Sleep’s oblivion disturbed by arthritis
He rolls from covers. Cat jumps off the bed.
He creaks along the hall to the kitchen
for coffee and toast with his meds, a dream
of flying on his bicycle tracking tears from eyes to mouth.
His hand clutches a crumple of pocketed paper.
The list for every day;
His eyes slide past the silent phone.
He tries to count the days
since the last time a real person called.
His mind shies from this.
She wakes at 7:00 a life-long habit, decades of work for the county.
Her bed covers barely wrinkled from her body,
she tucks and pats few lumps.
She smells medium roast as she opens the TV cabinet.
Though the directions say to take her medication with food,
she skips breakfast, worries about fantasy fat layering her scarred belly.
She checks her phone for missed calls.
She will rinse her mug, wash and dress, smoke a cigarette on the porch,
leave the house by 8:30, errands, grocery, pharmacy, and
home in time for an 11:00 talk show.
All the FaceBook posts of people in families.
While she keeps her wall interesting, hers never has pictures
of herself with another person.
Most were married, had kids, grandkids, far away
or uninterested in anything but the will. Holidays come
with anticipation a person can’t help but feel with Christmas
lights, everything green and red, Halloween afternoon.
Once there was bustle, cookies baked, Scouts singing
at the old folks’ home. Countdown til school vacation.
Sneaking into mom’s closet to spy in gift bags.
She shakes herself.
Sees the wrinkled hand
that strokes the cat
purring on her lap.
Husband died 10 years ago,
a miscarriage in ‘98.
No grandkids ever thunder up porch stairs.
She escaped an abusive second marriage.
Nephews helped move her boxes into a one-bedroom,
third floor walk-up.
Never stayed for dinner.
(Waiting for the will)
No room for her at Christmas,
not even the year her mother died.
She chuckles, thinking of a religion,
long ago, a family was told that there
was no room for them either.
She remembers an acquaintance who marked off days
on his calendar, a Sharpied X to keep track.
She used the newspaper.
Wednesday was the Food Section.
If she had to take one of those dementia tests
in the ER where they ask you the date, day and
who is the president,
she isn’t sure she’d pass now.
The orange idiot supposed to be running the country,
haunts her nightmares, but the newspaper is no more.
Expired ketchup collection in her fridge,
the fossilized popsicles he kept moving apartment
to apartment but forgot to eat.
September 25th, 2019
Biology / Judith Kingston
In which we cut and cut but cannot find love inside a heart
We started with a prawn but moved on
to a heart: cutting each open to uncover
the constituent parts, giggling and hoping
for blood, first shuddering at the black curling
excretions and the bristling brush of the prawn’s
moustache, then pawing through chambers,
that tough old muscle looking tired and grey.
After school time I stuck my knife into his
typewritten letters, dissecting them to find hints
of love. I was lost in him, could not find the
way in or out, every corner looked the same,
ventricular, aorta, the labels were missing and
probably irrelevant at this stage, my heart
pumped his blood around my body, I blinked
my eyelids over his eyes and covered him with
my skin. Mr Smith bent his sarcastic smirk over
my drawings of the heart cells I had squeezed
between two glass plates to peer at through my
microscope. He pointed at the double lines, the
gaps in the membranes: “What is going on here?”
I had to rub my sketches out and start again because
the human body can only be drawn with certainty,
with single lines that meet, with confident pencil
marks that keep that treacherous double helix in.
Judith Kingston is a Dutch writer living in the UK. Her poems have been published in various online magazines such as Poets Reading the News, Barren Magazine, VampCat Magazine and Fly on the Wall Webzine. Besides writing, she translates, teaches and narrates audiobooks. Follow her on Twitter: @judithkingston and Instagram: @judith_kingston.
September 18th, 2019
Solstice / Bayveen O’Connell
In the Hospice
there’s a small red suitcase
beside the bed
that will go home
before the autumn wakes
It’s a dark thought
for a cloudless afternoon
on the day that clings
beyond all others
Bayveen O’Connell is a Dublin-based writer who loves travel, myth and folklore.
She has had poems, CNF and flash published in Molotov Cocktail, The Cabinet of Heed, Former Cactus, Boyne Berries, Selene Quarterly, Underground Writers and others.
September 11th, 2019
Room: Basement Wet Bar
bad decisions on my mind / vanessa maki
my hands run against these / smooth black counterops / & i know none of this is real / but it’s real enough to me / & there’s no one around to disrupt this / one woman whiskey session / no one to take the bottle from me / no one to force me to follow the rules / & drink from a glass / & make me not think of things / that cut me so fucking deep / while on the outside it never matters / & then it’s back to replaying / bad decisions / that have burned through / the forests of my mind / bad decisions that make catastrophe feel like warmth
Vanessa Maki is a queer writer, artist, & blk feminist. Her work has appeared or will appear in many places. She has self-published a handful of chapbooks & currently has two forthcoming in 2020: sweet like limes (Bone & Ink Press) & the chosen one (Animal Heart Press). Find her on twitter, instagram & visit her site.
September 4th, 2019
My Feral Castle / Amanda N. Butler
There, I was a queen –the looming boulder I climbed
from which I could survey
both court and village.
There, I was an empress –
the stone tower
I leapt from in daring escapades
because there, I was a warrior –
a rogue adventurer –
but the sound of my name
as I had to leave
the rock in the backyard
for another homeschooled day.
Amanda N. Butler is the author of chapbooks effercrescent (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and Tableau Vivant (Dancing Girl Press, 2015), as well as the micro-chapbook “How A Fairy Gets Her Wings” (Origami Poems Project, 2018). Her poetry has been published in rose quartz magazine, Haikuniverse, Hedgerow, and more with work forthcoming. She is the Poet Laureate of Oldsmar, FL. She can be found blogging at amandanbutler.wordpress.com and on Twitter @arsamandica.
August 28th, 2019
Room: Panic Room
Ode to What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes / J.B. Stone
After Linda Perry
Sometimes a bedroom and a panic room are the same room when you’re aware of the world, aware of its potential, but see it wasted like a lost child with removed retinas to watch it spread like a mass grease fire, not even the most experienced line cook could
extinguish. Frankly, you’ve become sickened by the seclusion. You want to fight your inner demons, break out of this grunge and turn your moans into roars, storm the streets, blockade unholy vestibules and shed your battle cry as easily as your tear duct,
bang your war drum as easily as you bleed. Once your bedroom of self loathing cocoons into a beautiful temple of triumph, maybe your song will be one of rebellious grace instead of cumbersome quarters. Fore the angel doesn’t fly if its spirit curdles. It
only soars once hope becomes the soundtrack to another revolution. Another chance to turn one’s tragedy into a victory pose, breaking down the walls of a fabled Babylon and crumble the mountains. Mounted atop footholds like new-age warriors, on the days the world tells us to feel like casualties.
J.B. Stone is a neurodivergent performance poet, reviewer, and writer from Brooklyn, now residing in Buffalo. He is the author of two chapbooks, A Place Between Expired Dreams And Renewed Nightmares (Ghost City Press 2018) and forthcoming, Fireflies & Hand Grenades (Stasia Press 2019). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in BlazeVOX, Occulum, Crack the Spine, Maudlin House, Peach Mag, Five 2 One Magazine, and elsewhere. You can check out more of his work at jaredbenjaminstone.com. He also tweets @JB_StoneTruth.
August 21st, 2019
Room: Basement Wet Bar
Brumation / Preston Smith
I was dressed up with somewhere to go, only I didn’t know speakeasies remained after the age of Prohibition. Eerie auras of gray, onyx and an occasional gold emanate from the bunker that conceals the business: those around me danced, flitted around in gowns and tuxedoes, swayed
to the harmonious jazz filling the space but I yearned for crisp, Georgian air and sweet rum. It had become easier than ever to succumb to nightlife and its seductive version of unity, but I wanted to be a peach tree: seasonal, opulent, and a flavor everyone adored. Instead, I descend into more than just the speakeasy and find myself awaiting spring’s renaissance.
Preston Smith is a senior at Bowling Green State University where he studies English Literature, German, and International Business. Preston has interned with Mid-American Review and is currently the managing editor of Prairie Margins. He can be found on Twitter @psm_writes, tweeting about his cats, Helios and Misty, and his love for the television series Once Upon a Time.
August 14th, 2019
Cord / JA Pak
Spectacular the ties to our mothers. I nap & dream. In a car. She’s driving. Profoundly emotional, the mother lets all her unhappiness unravel into me. Unusual, her talking in a dream—I rarely dream about my mother, rarely dream long conversations. Awake. Decide I must call my mother. Phone conversation exactly dream conversation, item by item ticking off: family arguments, old age, half a dozen different heartbreaks. And too, she has a bad cold. Strange—my mother directly talking to me about anxieties. Rather, like so many women, she tells tales, personal hurts encased, directing the voices of others: your father thinks, your sister says. Several hours later, I’ve caught her cold. Thousands of miles apart and yet her unhappiness struggles inside my body and I’m back inside a stormy womb.
Bio: J.A. Pak’s writing has been published in a variety of publications, including Entropy, 7×7, Joyland, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Luna Luna, etc. Come visit her at Triple Eight Palace of Dreams & Happiness
August 7th, 2019
Waltz / Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins
it is with an open hand
that I eat from your forehead.
small sedatives live on your brow
a sullen landscape that invigorates
i am nothing.
what you are;
and my wonder is full
—a car ride of stolen goods
that we’ll eventually set free
a corpse of powder
the ignition is idle.
push your foot in, make a beast of it
send currents to its cylinders.
consider hands on leather
and picture your smallness swelling.
i am the pump and romance
a deck of cards reversed
where’s the pressure?
where’s the insane?
a thorn kiss in the middle of howls
will you swallow my broken?
will it make us mute?
will our bellies rip with our slang?
our vernacular in cadence with the breathing of trees
a circuit gland that kindles into spines
egg droppings like berry blood on beaks
etched on tar and lime.
alabaster veil I crack.
with chisel and awl.
sew you back/
annexed to a cooling dive
where pearls and abyssal hills
resemble your heave
breath held like wings in full speed
come to me
I’ll sigh at your gate.
Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins is an immigrant from El Salvador. She studied journalism at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA. but failed to finish because she found a job that provided her with good steady income and an apartment with a view of Downtown L.A.
Her work has been featured in Drunk Monkeys, Rabid Oak, Rhythm & Bones Lit, Pussy Magic, Punch Drunk Press, South Broadway Ghost Society, Mojave He[art] Review, Moonchild Magazine, FIVE:2:ONE amid others.
She is also the author of 4 volumes of poetry, ‘Things Outside,’ ‘Wayward,’ ‘Zenith,’ & ‘Ablution.’ Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins lives in Historic Filipinotown, CA with her husband, painter and poet John Collins. For poetry and rants follow her blog at http://notesofadirtyyoungwoman.com and on Instagram @Brujapoetry & Twitter @BrujaLamatepec
August 1st, 2019
Vantalisse / Marisa Silva-Dunbar
Tonight you are trying to forget;
I don’t need to know how.
I wish I were there to hold you—
trace your face with my fingertips,
kiss the center of your forehead,
bite your bicep while trying
to make you laugh.
It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen you;
I would’ve stayed longer if I knew
weather and time would keep us apart.
I miss: your hand over mine—
falling asleep with my feet between
your calves, my head on your chest—
cafuné calms me. I am safe
when I’m with you; vulnerable nerves—
I am armor to protect you. Let me soothe
you and this craving.
Marisa Silva-Dunbar is a New Mexican poet. Her work has been published in work to a calm poetry zine, Amaryllis, Manzano Mountain Review, Bone & Ink Press, and Midnight-Lane Boutique. She graduated from the University of East Anglia with her MA in poetry. Marisa is a contributing writer at Pussy Magic. She has work forthcoming in Dark Marrow, The Charles River Journal, Dear Reader, and Marias At Sampaguitas . Marisa is the founder and EIC of Neon Mariposa Magazine.
July 24th, 2019
A Study in Handpressed Orange Juice / Carly Maria Hubbard
The orange is not a metaphor. It is a fruit in your palm. Slide a cutting board beneath it on the countertop. Your palm knows what it is doing. Poised. Cup as verb as last night scented muscle memory. The knife slips and now there is red and your hiss. Now your tongue slips out, stretches awake, reaches for a drop of coppered tang. Tease. There are so many ways to release, and they are all the same. Say there is no knife. Say your arm extends into metal hook. You trace its skilled tip over the rise of rind in remembrance of my spine. You grow new nerves. Feel me breathe in the citrus of sweat on your neck. The morning that traces the rift and rise of your chest. Prone. Your shirt: a premeditated casualty. You part pith with scrape. Then the squeeze. With the unbloodied fist, though it’s all ichor. Your palm still knows what it’s doing. The tug to your kitchen, to sunlit table, to morning low and bright on your sill. To light the bits of skin tasted sight unseen. The juice isn’t what matters. No. Yes. I lied about the metaphor. You bring me a glass worth bleeding for,
Carly Maria Hubbard earned her BA in Creative Writing from DePaul University. Her poetry has appeared in Crook & Folly, Pentimento, and Hooligan Magazine and her flash fiction in formercactus and Flash Fiction Magazine. She is an accidental one-time winner of the Uptown Poetry Slam and often suspects that the spirit of Lucille Clifton is trying to contact her. Currently, Carly is a poetry reader for Homology Lit. Come play with her on twitter @carly_maria
April 11th, 2019
All Gone / Ricky Rivers, Jr.
She said, “Think of me every time you sleep in your bed.”
I hated that, so I threw the bed out.
Then, I considered the other rooms,
The kitchen floor, the bathroom sink, the couch.
It was time to remodel.
Out went everything with her smell on it,
everything with dead skin and her hair on it,
everything that used to have her underwear on it.
After some time, finally she was gone,
all of her.
I was safe and sound.
At least, I thought as much.
A bit of her lingered,
because of course I hadn’t considered my tongue.
Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Mobile Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. He likes a lot of stuff. You don’t care about the details. He has been previously published in Fabula Argentea, ARTPOST magazine, the anthology Chronos, Enchanted Conversations Magazine, (among other publications). Check out some stuff from him here, https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/. You may or may not find something you like there and that’s a promise. Twitter.com/storiesyoumight
July 18th, 2019
the wounded deer / Justin Karcher
I know this girl
who owns one of Frida Kahlo’s
in the air:
thou shalt not grow false wings
thou shalt not be a capitalist
thou shalt always be avant-garde
growing out of your body
ghostly roots pulling you apart
she’s always telling me
that if a sunflower
stares at you long enough
you’ll get skin cancer
but not the bad kind
that frightens softness
but the kind
that turns your heart
into a wounded deer
running through the woods
running through the fire
running across the moon
your truest body
running toward the buzz
honeybee biceps glistening in the sun
leaving your fists
because the rage is gone
Justin Karcher is a Pushcart-nominated poet and playwright born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is the author of several books, including Tailgating at the Gates of Hell(Ghost City Press, 2015). He is also the editor of Ghost City Review and co-editor of the anthology My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry(BlazeVOX [books], 2017). He tweets @Justin_Karcher.
Room: Swimming Pool
June 20th, 2019
/ Sara Matson
homage to my royal
accomplice of restraint +
impeccable plumbago blue
below a meadow of soft
gingerbread botanical china
neatly stacked like a
nightmare of provincial rooms
+ licked knuckles
spreading wide to
fabled humble grand
gardens at dusk
unforgiving moon flowers
fragrant against a
reflecting pool w/
yellowed water +
overwhelming licorice scent
(ever pragmatic like
a gleeful cistern)
decadent disease flourished
amongst her imperfections
like an enclosed
basketweave (elegant handiwork)
the cusp of legendary
she ate chips to play
(as if she couldn’t afford it)
her tips for illusiveness :
remain effusively enthusiastic
pretend to be denim
occasionally climb the trellis of the
fragrant herb garden (handmade + flourishing!)
indulge a sequestered life
w/ dedicated suite +
linens that have been languishing
use vintage glamour
as syrupy hope
as beauty dead + dying
a respectful imprint
as eternal holiday
sara matson’s writing can be found or is forthcoming in The Journal Petra, Dying Dahlia Review, Meow Meow Pow Pow, Rabid Oak, Mannequin Haus, Awkward Mermaid, Soft Cartel, Dream Pop Press, and elsewhere. her chapbook, electric grandma is available for publication. sara lives in Chicago with her rad husband + cats, and tweets as @skeletorwrites
May 30th, 2019
Vintage Barbie Chest of Drawers Not sure about age think it’s about 20 years old / Matthew Haigh
What I love about videogames with poor graphics is the bitty-ness of them.
I like reality rendered through a diorama, a plywood façade, the dryly domestic reflected in pink plastic.
This is why I preferred playing with Barbie as a boy – her assortment of accessories in miniature: PVC handbags, clamshell compacts, sun hats & cycling helmets.
My grandparents thought it meant I would turn out funny.
But it’s difficult for a 6 year old to articulate how few things are as satisfying as the click of a tiny drawer in a tiny cabinet.
Matthew Haigh lives and works in Cardiff. His first pamphlet, Black Jam, is due from Broken Sleep Books in 2019. The same year will also see the release of his debut full length collection, Death Magazine, published with Salt.
Room: Basement Wet Bar
June 27th, 2019
Grandmothers At Artmore Hotel Bar, Atlanta / Beth Gordon
At the end of the bar, a younger woman speaks
into her phone, a laptop open and buzzing with business, her strawberry
daquiri tells us everything we need to know but if it didn’t, her voice carries over the football game and we learn that she is firing 10 people tomorrow, is coordinating cardboard
boxes to remove their belongings and extra security and Susan could have gotten a larger severance package if that idiot hadn’t hired a lawyer, her blackish eyes
gleaming with the excitement of it all.
We are not drinking white wine, we have transcended
coconut-layered potions with umbrellas, our tongues attuned
to caramel-infused tequila, single malt scotch, overpriced Japanese
whiskey, neat, there is nothing we have not tasted or imagined, knowing that someone
can simply disappear one day, their corpse
found a year later in an abandoned copper mine, knowing that we will be reincarnated as cold
case detectives, knowing that the worse sound we heard was landing
gear, a reminder that we could not stay in flight, we order
another round, knowing absence has a shape, tastes more like bourbon
than gin, it has a name, like a gray-haired
incantation, too dangerous to put onto the page.
Bio: Beth Gordon received her MFA a long time ago and was not heard from again until 2017 when her poems began to appear in numerous journals Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize; and her chapbook, Particularly Dangerous Situation, is forthcoming from Clare Songbird Publishing House in 2019. She is also poetry editor of Gone Lawn.
June 13th, 2019
Viscera on my Catholic Schoolgirl Uniform / Trina Young
On Sundays, I take myself out to the street. I plead, but with my teeth
to the curb the words just bleed into the concrete. I leave
a scene for the churchgoers, so when they exit mass they see the mess of my pink
little girl gums and pray for me. I really want to ham it up, so I force stigmata.
I think about charging to let them stick their fingers into the holes
in my hands, but it would ruin the illusion.
They eat it up. Like a stain of Jesus they build a shrine
to me, leave candles, rosaries, flowers around my body
(though at night they think I don’t see them steal my molars for jewelry)
Soon they’ll walk over me, not noticing the squish of my green
flesh beneath their shined shoes. I’ll rot beautifully
into the sidewalk, basking in their unknown blasphemy.
I used to jab the finger at my parents. What if my father had been
there when I was born, to hear my baby vocal cords
tearing as I screeched for him? Maybe I could communicate with more
than just a closed fist. I could smile without my lips
splitting and tonguing the crevice. If my mother didn’t force
feed me halved promises, fattening me up so my skin
would be grafted to the toilet, maybe I could trust myself
to be a better human. They love me though; how else would they
have picked up on my stillborn heart and tried to bring back the beat?
So then it all boils down to me, trying to find ways to be clean.
My next plan involves a cheese grater and a bottle of bleach,
a baptism of sorts, my body a holey Garden, a home to locusts.
Trina Young is a poet in Chicago. She has been published in Afterimage Online’s Inklight Gallery, Superstition Review, Burning House Press and placed third as a Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award Winner in the Illinois Emerging Writers Competition. Her writing themes often include mental illness and the absurdity of life. She can be found screaming and cackling into the void of Twitter @tcyghoul.
April 4th, 2019
Spider in the Bedroom / Kailey Tedesco
drop your candelabra; blaspheme the flames, the heart
in the box behind the wall
of the nightstand. it is the two of us here & i’ve something
to say with cinnamon-breath, language
of drawing your shawl more closely
to the shoulder –
it’s you & not me & we are one walk-in
soul transference. they will say
you are not you after this moment, after
my body with backwards
feet kisses at your forehead. i’ve never seen
a ghost without its cameo, decapitated
to remind you it is the image of something
dead and gone. hold your crucifix
to create a light-prism. i want you to. it is
always snuffing, always shushing,
always walls waving friendly at
your screaming. the bed is
stuck with gazing, sheeted in a cold
molasses. capture me — i’ve needed
to be home for such a long time.
Kailey Tedesco is the author of She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing) and These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press). She is an associate editor for Luna Luna Magazine and a co-curator of Philly’s A Witch’s Craft reading series. Her manuscript Lizzie,Speak won White Stag Publishing’s full-length poetry prize. You can find her work featured or forthcoming in New South, Fairy Tale Review, fields, Bone Bouquet Journal, and more. For more information, please visit kaileytedesco.com or follow @kaileytedesco.
March 21st, 2019
the food I eat in secret / Rebecca Kokitus
the food I eat in secret—
the disgusting dry mouthed fantasies
of being stoned and hungry
like imagining eating a cake
ingredient by ingredient
I don’t tell anyone about the things
I eat late at night, like an owl
swallowing rodents whole—
slimy meat, plastic cheese,
brown sugar in its wet sand chunks
washed down with half-spoiled dairy
sinful film in my mouth like cum,
like tasting my own breastmilk
and forgive me for the cardinal sin—
fast food, eaten alone in my car,
(never in front of others)
silicone and glistening like
childhood toys, like
the burger and french fry magnets
on my old refrigerator
tasting so deliciously false
like a meal in a dream
I lick my fingers, smell my palms
the way I do after a cigarette
reveling in misbehavior
Rebecca Kokitus is a poet residing in the Philadelphia area. She has had poetry and prose published in almost fifty journals and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2018. She is currently a student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where she studies English with a concentration in Writing. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @rxbxcca_anna, and you can read more of her writing on her website: https://rebeccakokitus.wixsite.com/rebeccakokitus.
March 28th, 2019
Two Different Moons / Justin Evans
When you get lost
You come to the moon in the field.
The moon is small
Not like in your dreams
Where it is swollen and bloat
Like the body you found
When you were twelve, and the
Carnival was in town.
When you get lost
The moon constricts to a
Needle point, stitching itself
Along the seams of constellations.
You will never find your home
So long as you keep looking up.
Justin Evans lives in rural Nevada with his wife and sons. His next book is a collection of epistolary poems written with Jeff Newberry (@flaexile). He teaches at the local high school.
July 11th, 2019
Cat Called / Jane Fleming
Covered in the grease
of your sickly sweet—
exercise of freedom of speech.
As if my dress
The sex that you’re spewing from
that mouth that knows nothing
but the taste of
But words can’t violate,
Words can’t penetrate
and make you scream
Like the cream that you’re offering
Between those whisky fingers.
Dripping Mouth and Bloodshot Eyes,
ask that waitress whose
Ass you’ve been grabbing with
Those empty sockets
If she wants your blue veins
Instead of green cotton to fill her belly today—
Or if the jokes on you
When she frowns like she wants to
And pulls the bills from plastic
Before popping pear hips and watermelon tits
And whispering over that broken table—
Sure I’ll fuck you—
All the way out.
Jane M. Fleming is a Ph.D. student in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Texas at El Paso, where her heart was stolen by the Franklin Mountains. Her poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Drunk Monkeys, Anti-Heroin Chic, Pussy Magic Magazine, and Silver Needle Press, among others. Her chapbook Ocotillo Worship is now available at APEP Publications.
March 14th, 2019
I Wait For Her … Dirty / Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
Seeing her lingering fingers
wading under water
exploring so many
bubbles, softly she scrubs
soaping towards desire
she loves reigniting
every color splashing
her lips of fire. I can tell
she longs for me, to dive
inside her tub, nakedly,
converse in tongues,
feel her mouth, as
I am on your mind
as much as you are
on mine? She shines
dripping above me,
her thighs around my neck,
tickling waves, hurricane
shudders above me, so much
more than splashes, I love
the way my lips keep licking
up feeding rebirth, I crave
tasting her sweetness on
my gasping mouth, feel
her rippling white skin,
lush hairs curling
the filthiest smiles—
reveals the tide that floods
ripples of skin when her
body blushes hallelujah
she watches me turn
on her steaming handles,
feeling her tremble…softly,
pulsating her faucet lips
as she eloquently drips,
billowing deeply, I love
leaving my XO signature,
my lips always stream to
Adrian Ernesto Cepeda is the author of the full-length poetry collection Flashes & Verses… Becoming Attractions from Unsolicited Press and the poetry chapbook So Many Flowers, So Little Time from Red
March 7th, 2019
No One Ever Really Leaves You / Joanna Valente
I am dead.
I meet a woman
who is not a girl.
In the sky, she sees
who has our face.
It looks like us.
All of the birds have died
There are no birds
left in Philly.
Every light has been eaten
by things called demons.
I am not afraid of them.
They shine back as a constellation
an immense stone bath, a reverse vagina
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (ELJ Publications, 2016) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere.