‘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.

‘Two Poems’ by Justin Karcher

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The Patron Saint of Law Students Who Want to Change the World

There are microscopic radio stations
stitched into every American flag in town
you can’t see them, but they’re there
broadcasting an endless series of encoded messages
“this is the law of the land”
or “no one cares if you live or die”

one day, well-meaning law students lose their minds
because of the hopelessness
they break into janitorial closets
in downtown office buildings
they take all the mop heads
& rub them in piles of bad cocaine
until they kinda look like powdered wigs
then they put on the wigs
& march to the sea to start a revolution
but it’s not really the sea
just a large parking lot
that’s been painted blue & covered in salt
suddenly their well-made plans unravel
before their very eyes

so they gather their frustrations
& take aim with stylus pens
they pretend to shoot seagulls
walking along the beach
looking for taco scraps
but it’s not really the beach
just a small strip of sandpaper stapled together
they get on their hands & knees
& touch the imposter sand
they ask one another
“When was the last time you touched sandpaper?”
they all agree that it’s been awhile
that it’s probably similar to intimacy
that you kinda forget how it feels
& when you touch somebody you actually like
it feels totally weird
like you’re not meant to do it

after some awkward silence
they take a motorcade of Ubers to Target
where they loudly cry
while wandering through Dorm Room Essentials
they sit on cheap couches & kiss the air
at invisible friends that were once flesh
they ask one another
“Remember when making out on a couch
was the best thing ever?”
they all agree that tongues don’t taste the same
that it’s probably similar to a lobotomy
that you kinda forget you miss something
until you find out that somebody took it away
that when we sleep
there must be a concerted effort
from a hungry memory vampire
who sticks straws in our ears
& sucks out the small memories
that mean the world to us

the law students are losing
their collective mind
they buy all the pillows, X-Acto knives
& Elmer’s glue at Target
they go into the parking lot
& start cutting up all the pillows
they ask one another
“We need all the feathers
do pillows even have feathers anymore?”
they all agree that it’s best to be optimistic these days
that it’s the only way to fly
they take off their shirts
& whatever feathers they do find
they glue to their shoulder blades
they try to fly
but don’t get very far
so they sit on the asphalt
& wonder what to do next
they tell one another
“Let’s sue evolution
because we never sprouted wings
let’s sue the American dead
that still control the land
their voices do terrible things
let’s sue the night air
for turning us into terrible lovers
all we know are flings”

by nightfall, there are law students
jamming X-Acto knives in their ears
& when their blood hits the ground
well-meaning flowers bloom from the asphalt
& they spend all their nectar
trying to save a dying sun
but eventually they realize
no one else cares if it lives or dies
so they go into debt
deeper into dirt
& wither away

but no one weeps for them

The Patron Saint of Valedictorians Who Become Junkies

All over America
they’re reciting the speeches
they wrote years ago

standing behind makeshift podiums
in vacant lots
where their high schools used to be

the broken glass
the deflated basketballs
but they’re still optimistic

they were supposed to be
the saviors of their families
straight-A students

who crafted science fair volcanos
out of old beehives
and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

using rusty box cutters
cutting open each Cheeto
draining lava from its crunch

then taking all the sting
from their families’ backyards
and stacking it like a mountain

the heat of their potential
melting the hallucinogenic honey
on the lips of everyone around them

but something went wrong

look, no matter where you’re from
there’s always a fistful of scarecrows
aimed at your heart

nights of waking up
in abandoned libraries
surrounded by piles of dusty old books

and dirty underwear
still searching for the right words
that can undress the world

‘November Story’ by Mike Lee

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It was in the beginning of November, on All Souls Day, when Eliana became sick.

This illness came upon her as a sudden malady, as if being struck by a loose and crumbling brick that had fallen from an inner urban tenement windowsill.

The sickness made its presence known, heralding with a short, sharp shock of pain that flowed from the front of her brain, down her spinal cord and straight to her lower abdomen.

She stood up in her cubicle, with an explosion of sweat. Then she ran down the carpeted floor in stockinged feet to the bathroom, barely making it to the stall in time.

Eliana sat on the commode for nearly twenty minutes, feeling corrosive while expunging disgusting bile. After she was finally finished she told her boss she had to leave, and took a Lyft home.

On the way to her house, she visualized the scrambled eggs she had at the morning buffet. This prompted another wave of need, and the last three blocks were pure hell, but she did make it in time for a much longer evacuation of bowels after she arrived home.

After pulling the keys from the front door, texting her boyfriend to say she arrived and to come with meds and herbal tea, she showered, wrapped herself in a bathrobe, and pulled the comforter out of the closet.

Half-dragging the comforter to the living room, she spread it on her daybed and curled underneath it, sweating from a miserable fever.

Her boyfriend, Anthony, texted he was stuck in traffic. In the midst of typing her response, Eliana felt another rolling wave of pressure and gas. She made it to the toilet on time, but found little relief. The aching and fever was coming on strong.

“Stomach fever,” she murmured, distraught. “With eggs on the side. Ugh.”

“Thank you, fucking eggs.”

Eliana leaned back against the pillows and closed her eyes.

How long she slept until reaching the dream stage is unknown, but Eliana opened the curtain of sleep and entered a soft delirium of delightful sensation, framed with hypnopompic hallucinations.

She cut the delicate fabric with her fingernail, slicing through with a shimmering that echoed around her. While coming through the opening, Eliana found herself falling upwards above an endless plain of field grains, its orange color burnished by multiple suns.

The fields soon vanished into endless desert sands under a tourmaline sky, speckled with stars.

Eliana floated above it all, her colorful, striped bathrobe transforming into Technicolor wings. Immediately upon their formation, she tested her newfound means of flight, unafraid of falling. As luck would have it, or fate, Eliana was caught up in a slight current of air from a westerly direction. This she used to her advantage by confidently turning to her left to gently glide above the endless desert.

She dared to look below, and found a green dot. Spreading her arms outward Eliana began to swoop downward toward the oasis.

When she landed, soft-footed in the undergrowth, Eliana was overwhelmed with the fragrance of teak, tamarind and palm; vespertine flavors surrounding her with the blossoms of unknowable flowers growing impossibly high for such a tiny garden in the wasteland.

This oasis garden granted her a tranquil moment, stealing from her the sickness she endured, and erasing discomfort as she stepped over the soft ground toward the sound of water, a spring surrounded by a wall of ferns and herbaceous plants. The spring was fed by an underground fossil river, which provided enough water for heavy vegetation, including a grove of eucalyptus.

She made her way to the water, cupping her hands and drank the clear fluid. The waters acted as an opiate and Eliana leaned on her side and rolled over into the deep, lush green, staring at the eucalyptus looming above.

This felt too good. It’s pleasure forbidden, like symbolic adultery. Or symbiotic, parasitical, its messages carved in stone with vermiculated script. She wandered endlessly in her mind as she stared into the treetops.

***

She was startled by Anthony’s face looming above her. He was pulling her comforter closer to her chin.

After drinking a glass of water, she started talking about her vision, hoping by doing so she would not forget it.

When she was done, Eliana asked him. “Have you ever dreamed of anything so wondrous and weird?”

Anthony paused briefly in contemplation, stroking his chin until he responded.

“I dreamed I was being suffocated by multitudes of dog snouts,” he said, with a shrug.

Eliana closed her eyes, nodding as desert sands blew over the comforting singing waters of the oasis.

“I am at a loss for words,” she said, feeling ill again, a little more so than before. When she closed her eyes, she tried to remember the oasis, yet as it is with all dreams, her vision had already begun to fragment those internal memories into precious bits, floating away.

Anthony sensed he inadvertently did wrong.

“Sorry,” he said.

With that, he glanced out the window, watching the cardinal fly to the birdhouse in the backyard to feed worms to her chicks as the autumn breeze carried the first fallen leaves swirling into the air.

Mike Lee is an editor, photographer and reporter for a trade union newspaper in New York City. His fiction is published in Soft Cartel, Ghost Parachute, Reservoir, The Alexandria Quarterly and others. Website: www.mleephotoart.com. He also blogs for the photography website Focus on the Story.

‘Work Weeked’ By Roy

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it’s a thursday night & ive listened to 32 hours of audiobooks this workweek scifi novels there’s gold
in the audiobook content mines. there’s all that stuff about novels being bourgeois, you know the stuff,
what does that mean for audiobooks tho and what does it mean that ive listened to dozens of hours of trashy scifi this week
thru my apple™ earbuds but not the disposable airpod kind working on the spreadsheet farm escapism
is the real escape how else are academics gonna pursue their true passion of yelling at activists on facebook, defending rapists, and donating to kamala harris there’s no time for doing the reading!
the fucking teens are out of control! they don’t want to be learned by war criminals!

Alas it is Thursday tho! No Time! Woe! There are serious matters to discuss! but it is a Thursday! No Time! The teens are mad at JK Rowling! No Time! Australia’s on fire! No time! Fuckaroo!
Tis a Thursday and my eyes grow bleary from the fatigue of pretending to work while posting all day.

Thinking about doing some ‘real poetry’ right now about work like

“floating through an office at eye level / cubicle / trash can
slightly askew / legal box full / of rejections.

Ant traps stacked three high / Newman’s Own pizza box
Thru the window: Squirrels sorting / flower petals.

In the breakroom / a coworker
boiling tap water. Studiously
avoiding the squirrels / outside the window”

you want to know if the squirrels were ‘real’ well well well an artist never tells ok they weren’t real. the flower petals
were damp brown & smelled like mulch the squirrels were stamping on the browning flower petals waiting
for french fries but this isn’t what anyone wanted to hear even in a twenty (20) first (1st) century poem let’s pivot to YouTube the true MVP of Thursday nights
on the couch with a tuna melt & the french fries the squirrels weren’t fed giving dril’s adult swim show a chance

‘i’m an independent journalist covering my own life’ describes a fair number of poets except they don’t understand the ‘independent’ part:
“i’m an independent journopoet theorizing my own locality cosmopolitanally sponsored by the Ford Foundation i’m the Judge Doom Professor of auto-poetics at the Koch School of arbitrage prose”
but it’s a thrusday! I don’t have time to read the Judge Doom Professor’s ode to the American consultants who made a spreadsheet showing touchscreen ordering would be more profitable in western european fastfood franchises!
No time!

There might be time for a quick joke or a quick citation of a poem I read recently uh let me twitter search myself real quick for an appropriate quote to close this poem… Quick!
“Medvedev likes to quote Brecht on writers who “imagine that they have got hold of an apparatus which in fact has got hold of them.”
is listening to audiobooks a ‘lifehack’ or bourgeois affectation? will the poets ever spot their own contradictions? Hit that subscribe button to find out if our sci-fi hero
can speculate himself into & out of a worse poem to finally kill batman & redistribute his wealth!

Fuck it let’s kill batman right now! Boom! Dead!
Enough waiting around for heroes
write your own poem below:

__

write your poems in the reply and follow Roy @creepingmraxist