‘Motherhood Mary (Madonna)’ by Rachel Small

Madonna and Child St. Mary of the Cataract

Mary might have chosen a life for herself
Separate from the indigo sky folds
of her robes. Her hands could have
grasped onto the strings of girlhood-
Of beeswax candles positioned bedside;
bits of pressed flowers concealed under
stacked books and cups of chamomile
tea; a list of names written against the veins
of her wrist or snatches of romances held in
her hands by a setting tangerine sun. Honey is
poured from her cup until it smears across a dirt
floor, left to sit. Her choices lie amongst it all.

Rachel Small writes in Ottawa. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in magazines, including ottawater, many gendered mothers, The Hellbore, The Shore, and other places. She was the recipient of honourable mention for the John Newlove Poetry Award for her poem “garbage moon and feminist day”. You can find her on twitter @rahel_taller.

‘For J.D.’ by Damien Ark

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i. all of this hate unending

at the age of nineteen and twenty
i’d spend six to fourteen hours
cleaning and selling fish
high on oxycodone
with a pocketful of calls, emails, and texts
knife in my left hand
i’d cut off a salmon head and
slide it into a sink on the right
full of other fish guts, bones, and heads
as the blade slides down the tail
revealing pink meat
i’d think of you
when crawfish found their way through my glove
pinching me their claws soaked in salt and shit
i’d flatten them with a rubber hammer
i’d stare at their brains and body spattered
and i’d think of you

ii. fish-head soup

i rarely wore a steel mesh cutting glove
and silver scales would often dig into my nails
my hands would scoop up all the slimy viscera
and dump it all into a fifty-pound trash bag
when i’d do it, i’d see myself in them
from ocean or lake to fish hook to styrofoam and plastic
to slaughtered flesh and into dumpster trucks and
dumped right back into the ocean
or to decay and be eaten by maggots on mountains of trash
i fucking felt that
each week i’d sell hundreds of decapitated fish heads
to a man who owned a high-end asian restaurant
whether their eyes were clear and hypnotic
or if they were milky like infectious semen
he would tip me a hundred and fifty
and after my shift
i’d spend it all on my little 30mg instant release pills
smoke out a homeless man that worked in the deli
and beat my head against the steering wheel
after reading your hundreds of psychotic texts

iii. happy birthday

we fucked a few hours ago
i’m playing south park stick of truth
it’s 3AM
and you begin to sob like a maniac
if i won’t commit to you
you’ll commit to suicide
if i won’t commit to you
i won’t be allowed to leave
you bring up your last attempt
i threaten to throw myself out the window
to escape you, even if i end up dead
but by 6AM you have me
still crying, i come home, twenty years old
sobbing into a bloody pillow
as a red house painters song plays again and again

iv. toys r us parking lot

you’re stoned and drunk
you peed yourself and you can’t smell it
you’re too stoned to feel it
you want to get high in the back of the toys r us parking lot
i say that’s stupid, it’ll attract cops
after arguing about it with me, you smoke weed
in the parking lot of an arby’s
and cry even harder than ever before
the scent of piss filling the car
i’m leaving, this is it, but it isn’t
my trauma won’t let it end like this
not until you drunkenly slam your car into someone
and blame it on my anxiety
then make up for it by buying me an anime doll
and get me stoned after i don’t want to get stoned
fish heads
fish guts
why did i never see the red flags
even when you presented them before our first fuck

v. our first fuck

i remember your okcupid
with no profile image uploaded
and just reading david lynch and your taste in literature
was enough to convince me to fuck you as hard as possible
i remember your six feet under poster
you playing Elliott Smith on a Yamaha
telling me that I’d probably like Dennis Cooper
you wanted the lights off and i wanted them on
i wanted to love you in ways you didn’t want
me loving your fat and you hating it
the way it felt inside of you, so warm and tight
even if i did get some shit on my dick
and how i apologized for making you bleed
and after, us sharing our stories about being in loony bins
seay center fish tank and quiet room
it should’ve just ended right then like what the fuck
or at least after you confessed to stalking an ex-boyfriend
in a parking garage and frightening him
oh, that’s probably normal, i thought
sending you a text two weeks later
one of my biggest life regrets

vi. blackmail

i sent you dirty pictures
i remember taking some of them and imagining
that they’d make you think i’m more committed to you
hating you, yet i’d do whatever i could to prevent you
from killing yourself over me
i sent you all these fucking dirty pictures
you sucking my dick
me holding my dick in front of the mirror
dick and face pics ass pics everything
and you sent them to my boyfriend
you threatened to send them to my parents
to my grandmother after tracking down her phone number
you wanted to out me for not loving you
you promised to never delete my nudes from your computer
and so i’ll never delete these words either

Damien Ark is a self-taught outsider writer and an aspiring novelist. You can find and contact him solely through his twitter account.
https://twitter.com/damien_ark

‘Two Sonnets’ by Kristin Garth

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No Promise In A Pastel Sky

There is no promise in a pastel sky,
discovered by a waking eye toward
a window where it waits, a passerby,
perhaps, you hallucinate? No words
it utters, peony caped, fingers throat
until your mouth agape will swallow
his palettes blurred by aqueous eyes. Floats
away in southern skies while you wallow
in homogeny — pittance, molecules
he leaves, geriatric blue. You furrow
beige Berber, nose a dewy pane. Two pupils
constrained would trade this ennui for a pain furloughed
an hour would he deign to meet your eye
and overcome you like a pastel sky.

Torpor

Daydream ourselves into a cave not quite
a hibernation craved — more torpor, weeks
we’re licking dreams from dirty floors. Daylight
outdoors for carnivores in frigid creeks,
an afternoon to make their kills, more gaunt
each day and less fulfilled. When December
buries poetry in acres iced, taunts
fragility, our tendons remember
tranquility is always a dream
away. Requires a quiet place to stay.
Pardon the salmon for a day for streams
cerebral, more sublime, the month we make
a feast of our subconscious minds. Rebirth
us ferocious into feracious earth.

Kristin Garth is a poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked magazines like Five: 2: One, Glass, Anti-Heroin Chic, Occulum, Drunk Monkeys, Luna Luna, TERSE. Journal and many more. Her chapbook Pink Plastic House is available from Maverick Duck Press, and she has two forthcoming: Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press, Sept 2018) and Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019). Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie

‘Amazon Prime Day’ by Wallace Barker

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My little sister uses an oxygen mask.
It’s not clear whether she really needs it.
Some suspect she conned the doctors into prescribing it.

She keeps a dog named Janet confined
to a chainlinked pen and it shits everywhere.
Janet lives in squalor but no one knows what to do.

The other dogs have the run of a large kennel but will try to kill
Janet if they can reach her and Janet is small.
She can’t defend herself against larger dogs.

My sister lives in a single-wide trailer on my parent’s land
with her husband and no one is allowed to enter her home.
Probably because she is a hoarder.

I go home for a barbecue and see from across the driveway
the overgrown entrance to my sister’s house
and I see Janet in her pen.

We look away and talk about lunch.

‘Four Poems’ by Dale Brett

Grecia, Greek

IMMACULATE

Ghost-coloured
teardrops have congealed.

Every external globule has become
hardened, distorted.

Twin orbs shot-through and
sugar-glowing.

Your eyes, immaculate.

CRUSHING

Paw at the entrance of
my translucent being.

Your contemplative eyes
shadow-fucked with ardour.

Heavy grandfeathered
lips tarnished with sweat-ridden
bullets.

Inner emotions laced with promise locked
down and kissed-away.

Any remaining common courtesies
buried and blind-sided.

Hopes of shimmering intimacy
vehemently soul-crushed.

GELATINOUS

Asterism irises align.

Star-shaped splotches
orb-plastered in trans-sclera
illumination.

Rose-quartz facets
flake skyyyward and
peripheral.

Her eyes drowned in
happiness,
still

deeply wounded.

SLEEPLESS

Tenuous dreams float
hollow like fish balls.

Mind slide migration meets an
infinitely

blank state.

Talking logos reveal:
digital secrets of
a hush-licker.

Snacking on sweet nubile legs
& never-deleting

my only mistake.

Dale Brett is a writer and artist from Melbourne, Australia.
He is interested in exploring the melancholic malaise and technological ennui of the 21st century. His debut novel Faceless in Nippon is forthcoming on Expat Press in 2020. His work has been featured on Burning House Press, Back Patio Press, Surfaces, Silent Auctions and many others. Hypertextual artifacts found @_blackzodiac.

‘Special Mention’ by Douglas Ross

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My wife called me a dog in the journal. She said everyone put something there. Her
editor had a pug named Iskra. All she could think of was ‘Brooklyn’. I told her she was
an aunt to four. It didn’t feel earned.

We toured some cages. I spoke up and they got smaller. We learned the different types
of prolapse, how when you saw a bulldog it was either ruined, or somebody’s.

Short of that, I made our front porch hostile. I laid stone cherubs, pots of barbed
succulents, a St. Francis. Mothers came anyway. There were close to a thousand now,
down the street. They liked to sit and smoke together after missing curfew. I bought a
machine for her that put out creek sounds. A pillow for her arms and knees.

From her cycle app it was clear she was padding things by a few days. I came into a tetra
water. Heard a canner and his child rooting through our bin. They checked the bottle
under our porchlight, decided against.

One guy from her unpeopling group showed up drunk. He gained speed, launched a
cart at the Wegmans. What went through my head was: Lenin’s mom helped him. The
doors opened, admitting it inside. She stopped him, helped him to his knees, puke
flowing on the asphalt, over the woodlands and the admirals’ mansions.

My father hit the ground in his own way. I flew to Providence. They scheduled two
machines for his heart. She was home, interviewing an expert on Retreat. She promised
he was gay, he couldn’t want anything. But he’s brilliant, I said. She said, that’s true.
The next morning I did my tests. Squatted, rose. They didn’t put me on a treadmill.
We’ll do this every three years, the doctor said, in case that gene wakes up.

I went straight to the shelter from JFK. Lock the doors, I announced, nobody lets me
leave without one. I’d taken three benadryl. The volunteer led me through. Behind the
wall, a cage popped open. Who’s first, I said. We thought we’d start you with King, the
volunteer said. I asked why ‘King’. Well, they said. He loves everyone.