‘Through the Telescope Lens’ by Cavin Bryce

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Dear explorer of the far reaches,

If you’re finding this then something bizarre must have happened to you too. The truth is that I never did much on Earth. I don’t really do much here, either, but I don’t mind. You’re probably wondering where I am but I can’t tell you because I don’t know. I do, however, remember how I got here. Please, allow me to recount my plight.

I was eating a breakfast of buttered biscuits on my back porch when I noticed that the neighbor kid had left his telescope on the border between our lawns. Curious, I decided to take a peek through the magnifying lens. In that moment, as my eyes peered into the expansive nothingness of a dawning blue sky, my body evaporated.

It started with the rods in my eyes but quickly spread to my pupils, nostrils, and skeletal system. Every atom in my body had spontaneously refracted through the lens of the telescope and was then catapulted, by the force of inverted gravity, into the surrounding atmosphere.

Once I was up there I figured there was no way to get back down- on account that a strangeness like this only occurs once a day. Only one fellow can be the unluckiest man alive at a given time. That day, it seems, was my turn. Fields of cumulonimbus clouds sprawled in every direction and sunlight reflected off of the millions of microscopic water droplets, which generated colorful prisms. I saw, in those reflections, a rainbow of epiphany in natural form. In my idle state, while drifting through the eternity of our atmosphere, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue a life of observing contingent absurdities (those similar to my own peculiar circumstance).

As I was contemplating how to locate these absurdities, and how to plot them in a logistical manner, a cavalcade of planes lulled into my line of sight. I imagined that those planes were entirely full of strange people, that they were going absolutely nowhere, and that these facts meant that they must be having an abnormal day too. In the back of my mind I plotted those passengers on my developing map of abnormalities. As the machines coasted lazily out of view, I wondered if anybody had yet noticed my absence.

I felt fairly uncomfortable in the sky– realizing then that I now belonged there.. Gravity leered and migrating waterfowl screeched as I intruded. Time oozed forward, losing its shape with every observation I made.

When my body finally entered the thermosphere it immediately bounced off an ancient carcass of a space shuttle into an obscure block of sleek, black machinery. Upon contact various probing mechanisms, such as thin metal rods and rusting clamps, erupted from the side of the cube and spiraled about. Tiny cameras also emerged from its innards to peer in my direction.

“Hey,” the thing said, its calm voice rumbling from deep inside its metallic body.

“Ah,” I responded. “A sentient cube!”

“Oh man, it’s been so long since I’ve talked to someone. How are you, man? What’s good with Earth?”

I pushed off its body in order to launch myself deeper into the void because I knew better than to trust artificial intelligence, I have seen the movies. The cube’s cameras never left me as I floated away. “Hey!” it screamed at me. “Let’s play cards or something!”

The view of Earth from space wasn’t as awe-inspiring as astronauts claim it to be. It looks just like the photographs you’ve seen; a simple blue and green ball coated in a thick mist of clouds. A more impressive sight is the sculpture of decommissioned technology that sticks to the outer layers of our planet’s gravitational pull. Great serpents composed of copper wire ensnared passing debris which have, over time, formed a sort of giant dream-catcher that encased the entire planet. As I tracked the sleek wires with my eyes I saw prayers, among other Earthly aspirations, getting tangled in the mess.

Further out, I floated by fusing galaxies, pirouetting comets, and decomposing planets. Celestial bodies challenged my perception of distance and size. Everything was minuscule. Everything was gigantic. Clouds of metallic, shining, gases seeped through space as droplets of ink might sink through a glass of water, with twisting tentacles of carbon and iron dancing around stars, getting slurped into neighboring dimensions. There was nothing to do but observe the obscurity of my isolation.

It could have been minutes, or days, but I eventually found myself spiraling into the center of the Milky Way. Gravity existed there as a chaotic rippling of great waves that crashed and receded with enough force to effectively puncture the fabric of space-time. My body flailed about and circled, ever closer, to the center of the black hole until I was finally dragged beneath its surface. I existed there, for the second time in my life, as unconscious particles- a type of human dust.

On the other side of the black hole I found that my body was reconstructed on solid ground, grass even, if you could believe it. Shortly after regaining consciousness I found a  telescope precariously placed next to a foldable lawn chair. When I peered through the lens I could see my house in perfect detail, down to the cracks in the front door. A car I didn’t recognize sat in my driveway. A small boy I had never seen before was playing in my yard. Life had continued in my absence.

I’ve been here tracking the strange things that happen across our galaxy for an unknown amount of time, if time even exists here. I can’t recall what I look like. Or my name. If you ever find yourself near the center of the Milky Way, drop in. Perhaps we can play cards.

Sincerely, your friend

‘On Dissociation: An Anesthetic Aesthetic’ by Ethan Gathy

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Much has been made of the relation of certain writers and their affinities for drink or for various intoxications. Most often, besides liquor, one is likely to hear of a writer or philosopher partaking in opioids or in psychedelics. A vital strain, I aver however, that is missing in this discourse is that of the class of drugs known as “dissociatives”.

Dissociatives or “dissos” are a class of hallucinogen (the others being psychedelics and deliriants) characterized by antagonism of NMDA receptors. Drugs of this family include: ketamine, dextromethorphan, PCP, and nitrous. Their effects on humans include but are not limited to: a sense of confusion, lack of balance/proprioception, distortions of time and space, increased appreciation of music, closed eye visuals (including geometries as well as roving eye landscapes and immersive dramatic scenes). One has remarked that they feel like “it’s 72 degrees in your head all the time”. Dissos also are known to lack hangovers and instead supply afterglows and antidepressant properties. At higher doses they can induce “k-holes” or “holes” wherein one can lose one’s sense of place and have surreal ego death-like experiences.

The importance of these substances to the arts is perhaps not obvious immediately due to the dissociative family seeming relatively recent as far as drugs go, as well as seemingly never occurring naturally. This would make one think the disso is relegated to the niche, to being a weird class of “designer drugs”. We must remember, however, that LSD was a designer drug at one point.

The figure who looms largest over this legacy is undeniably John C Lilly, the scientist most famous for his development of the sensory deprivation tank and for his experiments on dolphin intelligence. After the illegalization of LSD, Lilly began experimenting with ketamine and later PCP. His work navigated everything from science to philosophy and spirituality and was often inspired by his entheogenic experiments. Tributes to Lilly can be found everywhere from the cult film, Altered States, to Serial Experiments Lain to Ecco the Dolphin.

Continue reading “‘On Dissociation: An Anesthetic Aesthetic’ by Ethan Gathy”

Three Poems by John Maurer

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The Process

Maybe we all hurt, all fell from heaven
Or realized that the top, the bottom
Kissed altitudes on ritual cheeks
In the have a good morning
Have a good afternoon
Have a good evening
Type of way, the type of way
Of the friend that never leaves
Or at least hasn’t yet
That will hurt
What doesn’t, what doesn’t

My storm-cauldron is brewing
While brushing my hair
In a stranger’s powder room
I ask the seashell hand soap,
Do you hurt?
All my nerve endings start
Fusing into the fused fuse
Of the ignored hello’s and goodbye’s
That get misplaced off tongues
And with a voice laced with lavender
The bubbles popping off my hands say,
Pain is the process

Another Love Poem I Hated Writing

I refrain your name in the rain
Reframe the pain as the same
You are in my veins

The left arm of an amputee, in its newly discovered dexterity
Often forgets about its paralyzed partner pickling in a walk in freezer
All I wanted was for you to warm me up
But you don’t even remember kissing my hurt
When I drove you to that amusement park I hated
You don’t remember how many tides of tears I dried
You don’t remember that I was the one who tried

How do you bring roses back to life?
With a fan brush of sloppy scarlet
From whores to gentrified escorts
Hide them behind geisha fans
I watered my flowers
But their petals fell anyways
Into a bath far from romantic
Where I read the Bell Jar
Think about my own blood disposing of itself
Think about you, my Sylvia
I bet my thoughts smelled like propane
Like nothing at all until you were nothing at all

And you are an emerald cut with finer tools
That deep sea divers will find and say,
‘I could’ve completely missed it!’
Not like me and not me
I saw the stars fall from the sky
I watched the sun burn out
While I watched the light bulbs burn out
While I watched our fire burn out
I saw a spider, genius at luring, look in a mirror
And find itself eaten by its own prey
Defeated by its disposition for prayers and prairies
Consumed by fatally fated foes
Golden yarn braided itself out of the scalp
Doomed by offering itself as sacrifice to the loom

Poison In The Ink

In Spain, you can sit on park benches without being a child molester
Artists are often good with their hands, an important skill
In the act of self-homicide

If an ambulance driver in Italy
Never picked up a pen; in his hand, he said
It turned from a needle into a bottomless hunger
He died of starvation in a desert of remembered paintings

There is writing where writers have written about writers
Writing where we have gotten lost inside our heads
Or quite possibly each other’s

John Maurer is a 23-year-old writer that writes fiction, poetry, and everything in-between, things that aren’t boring to read, hopefully. He has been previously published at: Claudius Speaks, Quail Bell, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Thought Catalog, The Scarlet Leaf Review, and The Foliate Oak. @JohnPMaurer

★ ‘Borders’ by Aaron Jacobs

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Stern was kneeling on motel carpet between two queen-sized beds and shouting into his phone while it charged in the wall outlet. “Do you have any idea what I’m proposing? Any idea at all?”

“All I can verify is that we are in receipt of your request.”

“It’s obvious I’m talking to the wrong person,” he said. “Connect me to your manager, if you’d be so kind.”

“Would it be okay if I put you on hold for a moment?”

She put him on hold and didn’t come back. They never came back. Six business days in a row he’d made the call and six business days in a row the call ended the same way. Following two or three minutes of hold music, which Stern knew well enough by now to hum along with, a recorded voice returned to the line and said, “Thank you for calling the Department of Homeland Security, goodbye.”

After this last hang up, he’d had enough. Of everything. He jumped in his rental and headed out on I-87 for the border. Let him take his case to the agents themselves. They knew his work. Who didn’t? Rescue Animal Butlers had made Pickles, the retired helper monkey, a bonafide star. God bless Pickles, Stern thought, the autumn air rushing through the window, chilling his left ear which, at fifty-eight, still had a tiny diamond stud threaded through his fleshy lobe. Pickles looked sharp in a tux and mixed the most wonderful Manhattan he ever tasted. Pickles also paid the bills. Stern had been able to move Mom into Park Meadow Senior Living Community and that was where she lived for five years, up until ten days ago. Now she lived in an urn, a receptacle not unlike the one that had housed Stern’s father since that morning in 2000, when Dad called out to Mom from the bathroom, “Babe, have you seen the charger to my beard trimmer?” and then dropped dead of a highly stenotic left main coronary artery. Both urns were presently en route to Stern’s West Hollywood bungalow, in a FedEx Ground box. Mom and Dad had given him his first home and he was giving them their last.

He lifted his coffee from the cup holder to his lips, realizing too late that he’d grabbed yesterday’s cup. The cold dregs were already down the hatch. He wished he was en route to his bungalow. Instead he was in the town that spawned him, the town that had employed Dad at the townie college, “Part of the great state education system,” Dad loved to say (and though Stern told industry people his father had been a professor, the man worked in procurements—thirty years spent mostly buying golf carts for campus police to tool around in), the town that his mother had refused to leave, even when the holes in her brain made it impossible to remember what about it she found lovely. The holes in her brain, hence Park Meadow Senior Living Community. He’d settled the last of her affairs by filling out the shipping label on the FedEx Ground box and yet he remained in Plattsburgh. Why?

Border Cops: Northern Heroes. Mexico got all the press. Cartels, gang wars, kidnappings in Juarez, decapitations in Zihuatanejo. The Canadian border? Canuck, please! Stern was about to change that. This TV show would present these unsung United States border agents for the courageous men and women they were. Who didn’t love a story where the most unrecognized and humble amongst us got the shout-outs they richly deserved? Stern knew in his heart it was a winner.

Plan was: zip across the border and see if he couldn’t chat up an agent or two on his return, planting a seed by passing along his business card. Stern said all the right things to the Canadians and breezed through the checkpoint. This morning he’d felt too jangled in his nerves to eat breakfast and was now starving. He quickly devoured a gas station tuna salad sandwich while driving with one hand, crumbs and mayo on his lap, tossed the wrapper into the backseat (which lately had become something of a graveyard for food wrappers,) banged a U-ie at the next exit, and eased the rental into one of the many lanes heading to the States.

He checked his wallet for business cards and put one on top of his passport photo. It was hard to believe that when Walter Janneck, an administrator of some import at Park Meadow, called two weeks ago with news that Mom was deteriorating, it would lead Stern to the best idea he’d had in over a year, one that would likely whitewash memories of The 13th Step is Love, his dating show that was shot in a halfway house and starred newly recovering, albeit lithe and tan, addicts, the show that was pulled after three episodes when Amber, the fan favorite, OD’d on a handful of smuggled Vicodin after she failed that week’s Sexy Challenge. That was the beginning of Stern’s rough patch. Almost immediately after 13th Step was cancelled, his longtime business partner and mentor, the man who’d taught him everything he knew about television producing, Dennis Raptis, went in for an easy-peasy lap band procedure and never came out. Stern’s ideas dried up after that. None of his pitches had sold in close to fourteen months. So yes, maybe he was in a state the day Walter Janneck called, and maybe that was why he thought it was a shakedown.

Walt J. was a CASP, a Certified Aging Services Professional, a title that sounded to Stern about as important as a production assistant. Walt J. also sounded completely full of shit, saying, “Audrey’s condition has reached the point where perhaps we should start the conversation regarding a wide range of options available to service her long term care. I hope you understand this doesn’t have to be an unpleasant conversation, or one without Audrey’s input.”

“In other words, you’re about to sell me the deluxe package. Isn’t that right?”

“On the contrary. What I’m saying is your mother’s condition has outgrown our facilities.” He suggested Mom needed around the clock care.

“You’re kicking her out? I’m a paying customer.”

“Mr. Stern, I said this didn’t have to be an unpleasant conversation.”

Several days later Stern was back in his hometown, camera in hand. He was going to record Mom, show her in fine fettle, or as fine a fettle—whatever the fuck a fettle was—as you could reasonably expect from an eighty-seven year old woman with mid-stage dementia. Let Walter Janneck watch indisputable visual evidence of Mom’s not infrequent lucidity and still tell him she had to go.

For some reason, Stern’s line at the border wasn’t moving. He inched the rental a little to the left to see what was happening. The car at the checkpoint was being pulled over. Then additional agents showed up. Then the driver got out. There was some discussion between him and the agents. One of the agents started searching the backseat of the car. The first agent put handcuffs on the driver. And that was when a woman climbed out of the passenger seat.

Continue reading “★ ‘Borders’ by Aaron Jacobs”

Three Poems by Nick Wort

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Kentucky Wildkats

Last week I
dropped a can of Shaq Soda
on the ground, and it burst like
the American Dream. The corn syrup
smelled like a sweaty baseball cap,
it felt like
the fourth of July

*

When I walk into your house I smell
Vaseline and Swanson TV dinners

You tell me you’re a libertarian
so I piss on your sheets
and dare you to call the police

In the morning,
you tell me I should try and be
saved, but we all know that was Bob Dylan’s
worst album.

And besides, I don’t want to
be forgiven, and I know
everything I’ve done wrong.

Lucky Number 9

CDs are made of plastic and
binary code and reflective
material. Stupid when we
could just sing to each other forever

I feel like I’m getting sick
but I know I’m not getting sick

Am I getting sick?
“Outlook not so good”

*

2 months ago I

watched you sing karaoke
in a beige shirt, top three buttons
undone, hair curling off your chest.

I smiled at you

White Shoes

Do you remember my
high school grad party
no one showed up to?

I cried into a box of pizza,

you took your pants off behind
my garage.
Red lace in the grass, polka dots
in the cream clouds.

Nick Wort likes bikes, cats and plants. He lives in South Bend Indiana. Follow him on Twitter: @dollartreevegan

★ Five Poems by Ronda Redmond

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Abomination

Written after the sculpture ‘Abomination’ by Eva Hendrickson

I am a tunnel of aching teeth,
bone spider
starved.

Naked

Of the desert

Forgotten here

I am brittle
and I did not give my consent.

The only thing left at the back of this cave,
daylight washes in just short of me.

I am a sliver I can’t extract and no one here to help me.
I fester my own wound.

The last best part of me has dried, spiraled up, and found its way out of here.

Artichoke Heart

Written after the photograph ‘Choke’ by Keith Bridges

I have never seen my heart.
But I’ve felt it roll and scratch inside my chest;
prickly tips strain against a threat to split open.
My heart up against a hot fresh loss, or one dug up cold from the grave,
it’s worse than being born. Minutes dig into hours and days and can’t see a way past
each new surge trying to break me.

But they don’t because
the heart is an endless machine.

The first moments past pain are like a blanket settled down on an empty bed.
Still buzz, the absence of feeling. Exhausted.
My own green heart flexed its best
and can lay down to rest.

The Night Cancer Came Home

It didn’t walk in the door. It came
by heart, via the cord that runs
from father, to mother, to son.
To me.

Because our children
are two and four, they don’t wonder
why their father goes to the basement
when the phone rings and why
he lingers there. They simply take
their baths and dance
through the fits that come at the end
of any good day with no naps.

When he opens the bathroom door,
his eyes are pink and glassy. He balls
his hand in front of his mouth
and hunches toward me to bury
his face in my neck. Our children
say nothing.

I look up and into the mirror we stand
in front of. He pulls away
and does the same. Even in these moments
people look into mirrors.

I dress the children in jammies and socks
and take them to the car, warmed
and waiting to rock them to sleep.
Blocks away, they are gone
and we are alone.

I want to ask about surgery and options,
about surrounding organs and odds
for survival. I haven’t heard him speak
cancer. I only knew it was possible
and saw him cry.

When driving, my husband prefers
his words on the inside. So I hold
his silence as well as the hand
he rests on my thigh. I sandwich
it with my own, like a piece of bread
for your child’s lunch,
or turkey and cheese late for work. Only
for the familiar.

How to Eat a Bowl of Plums

Take them from the ice box, yes
but let the eating wait. Press them
for sincerity—their willingness
to be eaten—then roll them
across the linoleum, love the miniature
jump and thunder they make never mind
the stop into mob board, the risk
of open stairway.
Rinse under the thickest
cold water. Spread them across the counter.
Rock your widest knife
across skin to stone, never stopping
the storm of slivers and meat pulp.
draw it into a mound—fruit
bleeding out a puddle, a snowball
letting go. Now eat it, in handfuls
the way we would drink from rivers
if we could.

Lucky

Soft dragon. Princess of rocks and sticks.
Your coat is a cape forged in lake water and set in deck sun.
You are raw earth and the under side of plants that grow in the shadows of trees.

Your dog heart finds mine empty at 4 am and piles you into my bed.
You are a deep sigh stretched out warm and set in against my full length.
I will follow you back to sleep and dream wild things with the smell of your head as my canvas.

Ronda Redmond received her MFA from Minnesota State University Mankato in 1998. She has published work in The New Delta Review, Loonfeather, The Evansville Review, and Permafrost. She works as a Business Analyst and is active in her local arts community.

‘Floaters’ by Tim Gorichanaz

Houghton_MS_Am_1506_(4)_-_Cranch.jpgWhen I stare at the sky or a blank page, I see things that no one else can see. I’m not talking about imagination or what have you.
I’m talking about my floaters.

What it comes down to is there’s a bunch of junk in my eyes. It’s been there for as long as I can remember.
I remember when I was younger the eye doctor saying the floaters would go away when I got older.
I wonder if I am older yet.

My floaters remind me of the lazy river at Noah’s Ark, “America’s Largest Waterpark,” according to the tagline. When I was a kid, my family went every summer. The intense and tall water slides were fun, banking left and right in snakely tubes, but my mom and I always had a special place for the lazy river. It wound slowly around the whole park, and you could get in or out at many places, or you could just stay put for hours and let the current take you round and round. Letting the afternoon float by in the lazy river, sitting atop a one-person tube, staring at the sky.
Floaters is a good name for them.

Continue reading “‘Floaters’ by Tim Gorichanaz”